The volleyball team currently has a winning record, but lately it has gone through a rough stretch.
The Owls sit with a 12-10 overall record and a 5-4 record in the East Division of the Atlantic Ten Conference, but in their last five games they have gone 1-4 and have fallen out of first place after losing to George Washington last Friday.
“We’ve played some tough teams, and I think it’s kind of gotten us down,” sophomore striker Caitlin Loudon said. “We’re trying to pick it up now.”
The reason the team has had a poor stretch of games is that they’ve cracked under pressure in late-game situations.
“When it’s early in the match, we’re loose. There is no pressure, and we’re fine,” coach Bob Bertucci said. “As the opponent starts to step up and starts to adjust to what we’re doing and, therefore, put pressure on us, we tighten up.”
This was the case during last Friday’s game against George Washington, as Temple jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Colonials, then failed to put them away and lost the match 3-2.
“We made mistakes at critical times,” Loudon said. “When there’s pressure, we fold.”
Recently, the Owls have also not been at full strength, as injuries, illnesses and personal reasons have put the starting lineup in limbo.
“These players need to be more responsible, take care of themselves, and if they get an accident kind of injury, they have got to do everything they can to get themselves healthy,” Bertucci said. “We can’t afford to have a different starter out every game.”
That has caused the Owls to struggle against the better competition of the A-10 West.
Bertucci said the teams out west have a larger talent base to work with, and volleyball has more of an importance in the Midwest than it does on the East Coast.
“A lot of the teams are older,” Loudon said. “They just have a lot of skilled players, and I think they play a lot more together than they do over here, but we’ll be beating them soon.”
Despite the team’s recent struggles, junior outside hitter Yun-Yi Zhang has put together a good individual season. She leads the A-10 in kills and points and has received A-10 Co-Player of the Week honors.
“She’s a great player and really a talent,” Bertucci said. “Everybody is double- and triple-teaming her, and she needs to get used to competing in that situation, and more importantly, the rest of the team needs to put up the numbers that we need attack-wise so we can spread out.”
The Owls sit six games away from the A-10 Tournament, and their schedule is looking to be a little friendlier.
“We’re getting back into our side of the conference,” Loudon said. “We need to win the rest of these in order to make it to the Tournament.”
The Owls will be facing some teams they have already defeated such as La Salle, Fordham and Charlotte. Despite the youth of the squad, it only has one senior. The Owls still have a chance to finish in first place in the A-10 East.
“I think we’re a pretty good team,” Loudon said, “and once we all work together and everything starts to go well, we’re a hard team to beat.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.