After two wins last week, the volleyball team could have rolled over against the reigning Atlantic Ten Conference champion, Saint Louis Saturday. Given up. It would have been the simple way out.
Besides, two out of three isn’t bad.
But maybe giving up was too easy.
The Owls put it all on the line during the deciding fifth game, but after 10 tie scores Saint Louis (15-5, 4-2 A-10) pulled out an 18-16 game victory and won the match, 3-2.
The Owls fell to 7-16 overall and 3-4 in the A-10.
Despite the loss, coach Bob Bertucci was proud of his team’s effort.
“It was a real tough one,” Bertucci said. “But I was really happy the way the team played. The way we came back in Game 4 – the way we did it – it was phenomenal.”
In what looked to be the final set against the Billikens – Saint Louis led 16-9 with a 2-1 lead in the match – the volleyball team came roaring back, ending the Game 4 on a 21-5 run.
“We just believed we could win the game and never gave up,” said senior Yue Liu, who had 15 kills. “We had to work hard and we found a way [to win].”
“Patricia Vernon did a great job on her part,” Bertucci said of the junior. “She displayed great leadership and made five or six plays to get us back in it. Then everyone started making plays, [Saint Louis] made mistakes, and the momentum switched in our favor.”
Vernon, who posted her second straight double-double with 18 kills and 11 digs, said she was “emotionally and physically drained” after the loss, but saw it as a good sign.
“Everybody gave 100 percent,” Vernon said. “We [should] learn a lot from this loss. This shows we can win the A-10. And if we play like this every game, hopefully we’ll just get better and better.”
Sophomore Jackie Morrison, who contributed 32 assists in the match, also looked at the defeat in a positive light.
“It was one of our best games we ever played together,” Morrison said. “We’re finally realizing that we’re capable of beating anyone and have the talent to do so. We just have to use it.”
“If we can compete with [Saint Louis], we can compete with anyone.”
The next opportunity the team will have to exhibit its talent will be tomorrow against Villanova (13-8 overall), a club that has won four of its last six games. The teams face off at McGonigle Hall at 7 p.m.
If a historical pattern continues, the Owls are in good shape. Since 2001, the teams have alternated wins, with the Wildcats taking the match last year, 3-0.
Bertucci gave his players off Sunday, while Villanova was playing at Louisville, but Monday was be back to the court.
“Monday, we’ll try to correct our mistakes,” Bertucci said Saturday. “Hopefully we’ll play as well and a little bit better against Villanova, a tough Big East [Conference] opponent, as we did today. If we keep working smart in practice and continue to gain more confidence, we’ll continue getting better.”
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at email@example.com.