The Owls went undefeated on their recent homestand, but after leaving the confines of McGonigle Hall they were not as foturnate.
Temple dropped away matches to Central Florida and Southern Florida this past weekend in what was its first road trip in nearly a month. With seven of their final nine matches away from McGonigle Hall, road matches will decide much of the Owls’ remaining season.
With a 15-6 overall record that marks the program’s best start through 21 games in 12 years, the Owls currently remain second in the conference.
Two of the major differences from coach Bakeer Ganes’ first two years at Temple are the amount of traveling the team has endured and the quality of the opponents they’ve faced. The Owls have taken trips to Buffalo, George Mason, Louisville and Cincinnati.
“I knew the biggest challenge as we moved conferences was going to be the opponent,” Ganes said. “We scouted them to be more athletic than the teams that we have faced in the Atlantic 10 [Conference] over the years. Also, as I sat down and looked at the schedule I could see there was going to be much more traveling with this year’s slate.”
Road trips have caused problems for the Owls this season, as they hold a 3-5 record in away matches while maintaining a winning home record of 7-1.
“Our competition this year is a little more geographically spread out with our new conference, which means we travel more,” senior right side hitter Gabriella Matautia said. “We have to win as many matches on the road as we can. This isn’t always an easy task, because at times we play a match Friday night, travel on Saturday and then play against another team on Sunday. We have to figure out what we need to do as a team to be ready for each competition so that we can be more successful when we are on the road coming down the stretch.”
In past years, Temple’s opponents were usually much closer in distance. The team’s farthest match south was Charlotte and its farthest trip west was St. Louis – trips they made only every other year.
With the season winding down, the Owls still have a few more road matches left. After next weekend’s home matches against Louisville and Cincinnati, the Owls embark on a five-match road trip. They will travel to Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist, Rutgers and Connecticut.
“Coming into the season I knew we had two stretches – a five-game road stretch and a five-game home stretch,” Ganes said. “When we play at home we have a certain comfort level and have been able to do very well. We need to bring that same focus to these road matches because it is really tough to get wins on the road in this conference.”
“We have traveled further distances than in years past, but I do not believe that is why we do not have a good road record,” Ganes added. “We just do not execute consistently through the matches on the road.”
Senior outside hitter Emily Carlin has had arguably the biggest adjustment in traveling this season, as she transferred from Radford where her matches were always in the same region.
“I had never been on a plane before to go to a match,” Carlin said. “We took buses everywhere we went the last three years. Schools we played at Radford were schools I have never heard of, so it is really cool to be a part of a conference with really well-known teams.”
The final stretch of road games will begin on Nov. 8 at Memphis.
Rich Fogel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RBFogel26.