Bob Bertucci knew exactly what he was doing when he made this season’s volleyball schedule.
The coach figured opening the season with five tournaments would be a learning experience for his freshmen-laden team.
“We knew we had to play a very tough non-conference schedule to be ready for the Atlantic Ten [Conference],” Bertucci said.
The problem was the Owls weren’t ready for the tournaments. Temple concluded the Penn Tournament, its last tournament of the season, with two losses Saturday, dropping the Owls’ record to 4-12. Albany defeated the Owls 3-2. Penn then defeated Temple, 3-1, and outscored the Owls 118-81.
“It’s very difficult to deal with these losses,” Bertucci said.
The Owls have 10 freshmen and three sophomores on their 16-player roster. Bertucci knows his team is young, but said they must learn quickly.
“Unfortunately, we expect to win,” he said.
The Owls are in jeopardy of recording just their second losing season in 15 years if they don’t make up ground. But Bertucci realizes there are two sides to every story and is also looking at the positives.
“They’re putting in good efforts,” he said. “They’re better than last year’s team.”
If so, it’s not showing in their record. The Owls finished 16-14 last season, ultimately losing in the A-10 tournament semifinals.
“We have a lot of freshmen,” said Sun Ying Ling, one of two seniors. “We have a new team.”
Ling finished last season with 252 kills as she was named second team all-conference. This season she has just three, but has seen action in only 10 matches. Senior Yue Liu tops the Owls with 164 kills and a .229 hitting percentage.
“There’s a lot of pressure on the upperclassmen,” Bertucci said. “[They are] taking losses pretty seriously. They have to continue to lead.”
What the Owls are lacking in wins, they are gaining in experience.
The tournaments in the beginning of the season “show us the college level,” freshman Jacqueline Cowden said. The seniors, she said, have shown them “how to play with intensity.”
“[Tournaments] give [them] more experience and let them touch a volleyball,” Ling said.
Bertucci said inconsistency has plagued the team. Three of the Owls’ four wins have come by a 3-0 score. On the other side, Temple has dropped four games 3-0.
The low point came in the third game against Penn. After winning Game 2 and heading into the break tied, the Owls were beaten, 30-9 by the Quakers in Game 3. A Game 4 loss ended the match for the Owls.
“We compete, but we’re inconsistent,” Bertucci said.
He said the goal right now is to correct the Owls’ errors. Hopefully, it can lead to competing for the A-10 East Division title. A-10 play begins Friday at George Washington.
“What we have to do is to continue to work on the weaknesses we identified and correct those weaknesses,” Bertucci said. “It’s just going to take time.”
Pete Dorchak can be reached at email@example.com.