The No. 1 seed and Atlantic Ten Conference champion Dayton Flyers sent the volleyball team home in four games.
“I expected to get to the semifinals [of the Atlantic Ten Tournament],” volleyball coach Bob Bertucci said. “The girls worked hard the last month of the season and committed to improving to getting better. We got everybody playing well enough to win. We overachieved in a sense.”
Bertucci knew all year that he had an overachieving team. He also knew that when he saw top-seeded Dayton next on his plate in the A-10 Tournament that he needed a new game plan. So, he sent out a completely different starting lineup from the one the Flyers saw earlier in the season by moving defensive specialists to outside hitters and his outside hitters to the back. Bertucci caught No. 24 Dayton off guard but only for the first game. The Flyers ended the Owls’ season 3 games to 1 game by scores of 16-25, 25-23, 25-14 and 25-16.
“We came out there and absolutely pounded them in the first game,” Bertucci said. “We wanted to come out with something they haven’t seen before, but they did a great job of making adjustments.”
After a close match the night before with George Washington, who the Owls (14-12 overall, 9-6 A-10) squeaked by in five games, Dayton (29-3 overall, 14-1 A-10) showed why it was the best team in the tournament. Dayton’s junior outside hitters Lindsay Fletemier and Becky Novacek both notched 17 kills and found open holes that Temple thought it had covered.
After dominating the first set, the Flyers made the necessary changes, while the Owls went back to their routine lineup. The switch back was not enough, as the eventual A-10 Champions finished what they started. Senior outside hitter Yun Yi Zhang had 30 kills to lead all players to end her Temple career with authority.
“I don’t think I would have changed anything,” said Bertucci, who has spend 14 years as coach at Temple. “You find things you could have done better, but I’d say all and all every change we made there ended in a positive, and I couldn’t be prouder of this group.”
The Owls are already looking ahead to next season, as Bertucci announced that Temple has signed Emily Frazier to help fill the void in the middle left by Zhang and senior setter Jackie Morrison. Zhang was named first-team all-conference, while Morrison was named to the second team.
“Yi is almost impossible to replace, but we’ll find a way,” Bertucci said. “As for Jackie, ask me a year ago if I think someone could do what she did, and I’d say maybe. Now, I don’t know what we’re going to do without her. She did things on the court this year that amazed me.”
In an interview with Morrison earlier in the season, she said she expects players like sophomore outside hitter/setter Elizabeth Prang and junior middleback Jessica Antosz to step up and fill the leadership void and lead a new set of Owls back to the A-10 Tournament again next year.
When asked if Bertucci would take time off or go right into next season’s plans, Morrison responded with a chuckle: “You’re going to get me in trouble asking questions like that.”
Christian Audesirk can be reached at email@example.com.