The volleyball team might be full of freshmen, but Saturday was about the seniors.
Yue Liu and Sun Ying Ling rose to the challenge on senior day against George Washington.
In fact, everyone rose to it.
The Owls topped the Colonials, 3-0, to capture their fifth straight win, and seventh in their last eight matches. They improved their record to 12-16 overall and 7-4 in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
The Owls embarrassed the Colonials in the first game with a 30-15 win. George Washington (11-14, 3-6) bounced back in Game 2 and had a lead as big as three, but Temple pulled out a tight 30-28 victory. The Colonials were no match for the surging Owls in Game 3, as Temple won 30-21.
Coach Bob Bertucci credited the Owls’ recent success to maturation and overall healthiness.
“We’re maturing as a team,” Bertucci said. “We had 10 new players and didn’t know each other. But now the freshmen are playing really well and the older players are taking accountability on the court.”
“We’re also getting players healthy. That’s helping a lot.”
Liu, who entered the match fourth in Temple history in kills and eighth in digs, added 11 kills and 10 digs to her career totals.
“It was a very memorable day,” Liu said. “I’ve been here almost four years, and this was so exciting. We try to play very hard on senior day.”
Ling is also climbing the record books. Her nine digs against George Washington gave her a career total of 1,608. She needs five digs to pass Katie Harrigan for second place and 25 to pass all-time leader Alma Kovaci.
But winning Saturday was her top priority.
“It was a very important day for me,” Ling said. “I had to play hard. I didn’t want to lose.”
Though she agrees it was important to play well on senior day, sophomore Jackie Morrison had another thought on her mind.
“This game was very important,” said Morrison, who had a game-high 30 assists. “They beat us last time [at George Washington, Sept. 28], and they always play us really hard.”
Though his team has its longest winning streak in two years, Bertucci still has some worries.
“The girls are playing better, but we still have the habit of thinking that when we’re up, we can relax,” Bertucci said. “We have a couple more duel matches. Fordham and La Salle are big games to win to ensure we win the [A-10 Eastern Division].
“After that we’ll be going to the [A-10] tournament. It’ll [come down to] whichever team wants it the most.”
The Owls travel to New York Nov. 6 to face Long Island at 5 p.m. The last time the Owls took on Long Island was two years ago, and, coincidentally, that match was the fifth win in the Owls’ last winning streak.
That streak in 2005 eventually reached nine games, a string of victories the players aren’t thinking about. They said they have more important things on their minds.
“We need to keep strong,” said Liu. “We try to be the best, try to be perfect. We are trying to win [the A-10 Championship] this year.”
“We don’t want to lose,” Ling added. “We are trying to win a championship. That would be kind of like a happy ending for me.”
Jeff Appelblatt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.