Coach Bob Bertucci hasn’t mentioned the importance of the volleyball team’s seven-game homestand. Nor has he touched on the fact that if Temple (11-7, 7-1 A-10) beats Dayton tomorrow at noon, both teams will be locked in a first place tie in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
Bertucci is keeping that stuff under wraps. He doesn’t want his team enamored with its six-match winning streak heading into tonight’s match up with Xavier.
Bertucci knew it was only a matter of time until his team came around, and now appears to be that time. He’s seen players mature over the last six weeks and sacrifice for the betterment of the team.
Dayton still is a day away, and Bertucci doesn’t want his squad overlooking a Xavier team hungry for a win. He likes to take things one game at a time.
“If you start looking at all the streaks that you have, then it adds unnecessary pressure that you don’t need,” Bertucci said. “So I don’t focus on that. They know how important these games are.”
And no game could hold more importance than the one against Dayton. The Flyers (18-7, 7-0 A-10) have been downright frightening and will have had nine days rest when they come to McGonigle Hall on Halloween. The holiday will mark the third game Temple has played this week. A 3-0 shutout win over La Salle was quickly forgotten once the last match point was scored.
The Owls want the Flyers, and they want them now.
“It’s going to be exciting because they’re one of the only teams that’s been challenging us in the conference,” senior outside hitter Margaret Majewska said.
That wasn’t the case early this season. But the Owls’ five-game losing streak at the start of the season is old news, especially since all their players are now healthy and in shape. After punishing conference opponents since the beginning of October, things are starting to get redundant.
“I wish we would have more of those games,” Majewska said of the early-season competition. “Then we would know how we stack up against everyone else.”
Dayton has been the lone blemish on Temple’s conference record, but it wasn’t ugly. Temple had three outside hitters post double-digit kills, but the difference was Dayton’s 18 blocks to Temple’s six. The Owls were also out-hit that game, .282 to .195. Those statistics must improve. Dayton leads the conference in blocks, kills, assists and hitting percentage.
Temple has to cut down on its hitting and service errors.
“We can’t back off the way we’re playing,” Bertucci said. “The number of kills are good and the number of aces are good. We just need to minimize the errors, and we’re working on that real hard.”
One way Bertucci has been resolving the problem is by switching up the rotation. Junior Laura Leis, who stands at 6-feet, 1-inch, has been seeing more playing time lately, contributing on serves and blocking. Sophomore Stephanie Boynovsky also has had her playing time extended and has been rotating with senior Charity Hill at middle blocker.
“I know my players so well right now that we can run different stuff and the people in the rotation can easily switch into a spot,” Runk said. “It’s been real beneficial.”
But for the Owls to give Dayton a taste of defeat, they must have steady blocking and better control of the Flyers’ kills.
The Owls have traditionally been late bloomers. They won 26 of their last 31 games last season. The current streak has seen Temple win 11 of its last 13 matches.
“Hopefully it’ll work out to be an advantage for us and force us to work harder,” Bertucci said of the team’s penchant for late starts. “But we still have work to do just to get to where we were last year.”
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com.