The volleyball team faces Atlantic Ten Conference bottom-dweller La Salle Wednesday at McGonigle Hall, but the team won’t take the Explorers for granted, despite their 4-9 road record and 0-8 conference record.
The Owls, who had the weekend off, enter the match in the midst of a late-season three-game winning streak. They recently knocked off George Washington, Charlotte and Army to improve to 13-10 overall.
Beating the Colonials and the 49ers moved the Owls to 5-3 in the A-10.
“It would be a huge mistake to think this is an easy win,” coach Bob Bertucci said of a meeting with La Salle. “We can’t afford to give up even one home game.”
The Owls will have little margin of error if they are to earn a first round bye in the A-10 tournament by winning the East Division. They sit just one game ahead of Charlotte in the A-10 East.
Two of the Owls’ five remaining conference games are against the Explorers. The Owls have never lost to La Salle, beating their city rivals 32 consecutive times.
This season’s schedule had the Owls matchup against A-10 opponents at home, and then again on the road later. In past seasons, each team would split the meetings throughout the season. Bertucci said this increases the meaning of every home game.
“It’s difficult to win on the road,” he said. “Coaches and players know this.”
The Owls used strong hitting and aggressive defense to pull back-to-back home wins against George Washington and Charlotte two weekends ago. Bertucci urged his team not to become too relaxed, because they will face these teams a gain at the end of the season.
And this time they’ll have to win on the road.
Temple is 3-9 on the road and 10-1 at home this season. Wednesday’s game marks the Owls’ final home game. The Owls have five remaining road games, four of which are against A-10 opponents.
“We’re taking things step by step,”Bertucci said.
He broke this process into three goals for a success.
First, Bertucci said, the Owls will need to beat each of their A-10 Eastern conference opponents at home. Temple took a huge step toward attaining that goal by beating both GW and Charlotte at home.
The second step will be to beat those same opponents on the road. This includes facing Charlotte and GW, who sit in second and third place respectively, on the last weekend of the season.
The Owls will also have to defeat Fordham, which has just one A-10 victory, and La Salle.
“La Salle is going to be difficult at home,” Bertucci said. “Every game is going to be harder on the road. We have to remember that and work on improving.”
Bertucci’s third step to success is for the Owls to beat the other side of the West Division opponents. This likely includes winning in Ohio against Dayton and/or Xavier in the A-10 tournament.
Though the process might seem easy with only three steps, Bertucci said it is a daunting goal for a team that is still improving.
Last season Bertucci admitted the Owls weakness was blocking. Against the 49ers earlier this month, junior Yue Liu recorded four solo blocks while junior Christina DeMarco added four blocks of her own.
Still, Bertucci admits that blocking remains the team’s weakest link.
“We struggled last year with blocking, and I think this team has the potential to be really good in the back court,” he said, “but we need to commit to the block to help [the backcourt].”
Dani Milner can be reached at email@example.com.