You wouldn’t know it from looking at their record (12-16, 9-3), but the volleyball team is fighting for the second seed in the Atlantic Ten tournament.
After being swept in consecutive matches by Xavier and Dayton, the two squads that sit atop the conference standings, the Owls headed up Broad Street on Wednesday to take on La Salle.
With only two matches remaining before the A-10s, this was one they desperately needed. And that is exactly how the Owls handled themselves.
Yue Liu and Zhen Jia Liu led the way with 18 and 17 kills, respectively, as the Owls swept the Explorers, 3-0 (30-26, 30-18, 30-15).
“After the past weekend, playing Dayton and Xavier in Ohio, it was tough,” coach Bob Bertucci said. “My biggest concern was the girls being able to rebound, get focused and not dwell on those matches. And they were able to do that.”
From the start, the Owls proved to be a team with something to play for. After taking the first game, 30-26, the Owls built momentum as the match went on. Their margin of victory grew in each of the three sets.
Although the Explorers took an early lead in the second game, the Owls held their ground. Dominant net play from Yue Liu and Zhen Jia Liu drew the Owls even. And after losing momentum as well as the lead, LaSalle became their own worst enemy, committing six unforced errors.
“No matter if it was a good ball or bad ball, we played all together in the middle,” Yue Liu said. “Our team has very good setters. Tonight, this helped me score a lot of points.”
Senior Alison Runk was a stalwart at the setter position. Her game-high 46 assists made it easy for her teammates to finish their kills.
“We worked really hard in practice yesterday, just trying to minimize our errors and doing the tactical things that will help us,” Runk said. “We need to come out in our next couple games and do the same things that we were able to do tonight.”
Whether leading for an entire game or falling behind early, the Owls were sharp.
In the third game the Owls found themselves in an early 4-0 hole. But they were able to brush off some communication problems to mount an impressive comeback.
After LaSalle regained a 6-5 lead, the Owls scored eight unanswered points to ultimately put the Explorers away.
“I think we have hopefully built a little confidence going into this weekend,” Bertucci said. “Tonight, for us to be able to come out and have a good first game was really important. Now our goal is to win two games on the road.”
With the win, the Owls moved to 9-3 in conference play and locked up at least the third seed in the A-10 tournament. They have two matches remaining this weekend at Rhode Island and at Fordham, before tournament play kicks off on Nov. 19.
Jonathan Campbell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.