The overall record speaks for itself. Volleyball coach Bob Bertucci and his players are experiencing a near-reversal of the last two years.
After going 51-15 in their last two seasons, the squad will begin conference play with a horrendous 3-11 record.
“We’re definitely off to a rocky start, to say the least.” Bertucci said, “We have just so many inexperienced players that are in the lineup.”
The first few weeks of the season, the Owls worked hard trying to figure out how their lineup was going to jell as well as to find themselves.
With conference play staring them in the face today at Duquesne, Bertucci’s squad has just recently figured out a workable lineup.
Bertucci (212-76 at Temple) is encountering one of the most trying seasons since taking over the program in 1995.
He has guided the program to four NCAA tournament appearances in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2002 as well as three Atlantic Ten titles.
The three-time A-10 Coach of the Year said he is going through this rebuilding year with persistence.
“The trick is just to have patience,” Bertucci said.
For the last four years, the Owls had the same starting lineup. When last year’s seniors left, they took with them the team’s top players in kills. More than 600 of those kills came at the hands of Yamit Haba and Xu Yun, each of whom were all-conference performers.
The challenge of trying to win with only two major contributors remaining from last season has been a difficult one.
During the spring, the injury bug bit junior middle blocker Stephanie Buynovsky. She showed much promise last season, but a serious knee injury still has her rehabilitating.
Senior Alison Runk, the two-time A-10 Setter of the Year, is attempting to assist the young and inexperienced players as much as possible. But according to Bertucci, this adjustment phase is not easy for her.
“It’s going to take some patience on her part,” Bertucci said, “Taking bad players and making them better, she’s not used to doing that.”
Senior outside hitter Zhen Jia Liu is the other returning player with some starting experience on the team. Although she was plagued the two previous years with nagging knee problems, Bertucci is hopeful about the role she has played so far.
“The more she gets comfortable with that role, the better this team is going to be,” he said.
With the maladies to Buynovsky and Liu, others have had to step in right away.
Temple returned home on Tuesday and lost 3-2 to Rutgers at McGonigle Hall. It was the first home match since hosting the Hampton Inn/Kaepa Temple Volleyball Classic 24 days earlier.
The Owls went 3-7 on the extended road trip, including a 3-2 win over New Hampshire at the Fairfield Fall Classic and a 3-1 loss to host Fairfield last weekend.
The Owls have yet to taste a victory at home this season.
In the loss, Bertucci used a nine player rotation including two freshmen, outside hitter Yue Liu and middle blocker Christina DeMarco.
Prior to Tuesday’s loss to Rutgers, Liu had amassed 69 kills and is second on the team with 2.09 per game behind fellow Shanghai, China native Jia Liu. Yue Liu came off an injury that sidelined her for a week and a half. She is emerging as major cog, according to Bertucci.
“Once Yue is healthy the team is really going to start to do some nice things,” he said.
Although Xavier is the A-10 championship favorite, Bertucci said his team can get back to its winning ways if it can minimize errors.
“Confidence is important going into conference play,” Bertucci said, “I think we’ll get it together here pretty soon.”
Donnell A. Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.