After a month of losing on the road, the team returned home.
The volleyball team closed out its homestand this weekend with two tough losses to No. 19 Dayton University and Xavier University, putting them into an even bigger hole in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
The losses capped off a four-game stretch in McGonigle Hall where the team went 2-2, winning matches against La Salle University and Long Island University, before falling in its final two matches.
“I think it’s a rough blow, but we still have so many games to look forward to, we can’t dwell on it too much,” senior middle blocker Jessica Antosz said. “[We have to] learn from our mistakes and move on. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
The Owls were swept in straight sets by Dayton on Friday 25-5, 25-9 and 25-16. The team hit a paltry .062 compared to Dayton’s .344, while senior libero Ariel Pierre led the team with 19 digs.
Things looked better against Xavier, as the Owls took the third set and seemed poised to take control of the match.
“The girls did it. The girls won the third game,” coach Bob Bertucci said. “We didn’t change any tactics, we didn’t change the lineup, we didn’t do anything different.”
But costly mistakes by Temple and excellent serving by Xavier proved to be too much in the fourth set, as the team fell, 3-1.
“We were 13-10 in that game and lost the game 25-16,” Bertucci said. “Of course, they did some good things. They were serving really tough, but we have to be able to control that ball.”
Xavier out-hit the Owls .235 to .107 and recorded 10 aces behind sophomore Kaela Jo Freppon’s five aces. The loss knocked the Owls to 4-15 and 1-4 in the A-10 and pushed Xavier to 12-6 and 5-1 in the A-10.
The same problems have plagued the team all season. Sloppy hitting, a new setter and suspect passing have resulted in a season that Bertucci is prepared to call a rebuilding year.
“It is, but we’re going to have a rebuilding year again next year. We’re losing five players. We’re going to have a rebuilding two years,” Bertucci said.
Some of the few bright spots this season have been the stellar defense by Pierre, who recorded another 27 digs against Xavier and freshman outside hitter Elyse Burkert. Burkert posted a double-double with 15 kills, for a .244 hitting percentage and 12 digs.
Burkert and fellow freshmen middle blocker Cecelia Spencer and outside hitter Gabriella Matautia have all received significant time. While this will speed up their maturation process with the team, Bertucci would prefer that they didn’t have to learn on the fly.
“We can’t be depending on freshmen to win games for us, and we are right now,” Bertucci said. “It needs to be the seniors.”
Some of the reason for the early assent of the freshman class has been the lackluster performance by the seniors, including outside hitters Jovana Radojevic and Ashley Carr.
“The seniors have to step up. It’s got to mean a little bit more to them,” Bertucci said. “Right now they seem to be satisfied with playing well and winning one game.”
The Owls are also working with a new setter this season, junior Rikia Trischuk. The season has been a trial-by-fire for Trischuk. As the season progressed, Trischuk’s performance improved as she learned the nuances of being the team’s starting setter.
“I think she’s definitely improved, every match she’s getting better,” Bertucci said. “She has to get better. It’s got to get better faster, because we’re in conference play now.”
“We realize what we have to change with her. For hitters, we know what we have to do,” Antosz said.
The Owls have plenty of work to do in the final weeks of the season if they are to salvage their record. Their next opportunities will be at Charlotte University and George Washington University this weekend.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.