Sports

Underclassmen inspire volleyball team to aim high

Women’s volleyball is focusing on making the 2011 season a year that the team can build upon. Despite being only a month into the season, it’s already obvious that this is a building year for women’s volleyball. It’s the year they build up hope and prepare to make a run when next season tips off…. Read more »

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ANDREW THAYER TTN The volleyball team celebrates a win against Rider in straight sets on Sept. 6. The Owls dropped its next three games at the Blackbird Invitational.

Women’s volleyball is focusing on making the 2011 season a year that the team can build upon.

Despite being only a month into the season, it’s already obvious that this is a building year for women’s volleyball.

It’s the year they build up hope and prepare to make a run when next season tips off. It’s the year a strong and promising group of freshmen—not to mention a few talented sophomores—make their name and show what they can do next to proven veterans.

The Owls’ three losses this weekend in the Long Island Blackbird Invitational dropped the team’s record to 3-6, but those numbers shouldn’t be the focus.

Focus on 145, the number of assists freshman setter Tiffany Connatser had in those three games, showing how comfortable she’s getting with the offense early in her career. Focus on 13.67, the kills per game sophomore outside hitter Gabriella Matuatia had over the weekend. Focus on 4, 9 and 11, the number of kills sophomore outside hitter Elyse Burkert provided in each successive game as she regained her composure after a foot injury two weeks ago.

“It was kind of shaky because she hadn’t practiced in two weeks, but we’re back in the swing of it and she’s helping us out,” Connatser said of Burkert.

“This group is a really resilient group,” coach Bakeer Ganes added. “Of course everybody wants to win, there’s no question about that. But we’re trying to do something bigger than just focusing on wins and losses this year. We’re trying to create a program that’s going to be successful for years to come. So everything that we do right now is so we can build that team that can be successful the next couple years.”

The Blackbird Invitational was just another test for a team still proving itself. The Owls opened up the tournament on Friday against Lehigh, and got outplayed in every phase of the game. They had a .133 hitting percentage in the match, which they lost 3-1, and gave up seven aces.

“The loss we had against Lehigh, we just played the worst game all season,” Ganes said. “We were just not competing very well. The [other two losses] were totally different. We played against a Big East team, Syracuse, and we competed very well against them.”

Following the loss to Lehigh, the Owls would lose their next two matches 3-1. Four Owls reached double-digit kills in the last game against host Long Island with Matuatia making it three for three in the tournament. Connatser broke 50 assists in the same match, and Burkert continued to get back to the level she started at early in the season. And on top of that, the team hustled and fought through every point.

“I think in the beginning we started off slow, but definitely in the last two games we played a whole lot better and got into our groove. I think it’s the best we’ve played all season,” Connatser said. “We played really good teams and we really competed against them.”

“It’s awesome to be a part of it, and we all work really hard in practice and in games so I think we deserve what we’re getting because we worked so hard for it,” freshman middle hitter Alex Schmitt added.

The team continues to work consistently, even if it doesn’t show in the win column.

“If we keep doing what we’re supposed to do, the wins are going to come,” Ganes said. “The main thing for us is to develop and get better as a team.”

Jake Adams can be reached at jake.adams@temple.edu.

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