The Owls lost to the Scarlet Knights on Friday 3-1.
“We made a lot of mistakes today, a lot of unforced errors,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “This was probably by far the most unforced errors we’ve made in a match all season long. It was pretty evident we had trouble serve receiving the ball and blocking the ball, and that’s what hurt us today.”
The Scarlet Knights had 22 assisted blocks to Temple’s eight, but there were other reasons the Owls struggled, besides their blocking woes and unforced errors. When Temple swept its first match against Rutgers earlier this season, sophomore setter Sandra Sydlik had five service aces, including four in a row during a critical point in the match, along with 25 assists. On Friday, Sydlik stood on the sidelines in a Temple jacket for the entire match, inactive due to an infection. Sydlik did not practice on Thursday.
Sophomore libero Alyssa Drachslin played with an injured thumb, which hampered her efforts and caused problems with the Owls’ defense.
“We’re feeling pretty [bad],” senior right side hitter Gabriella Matautia said. “We feel like we’ve lost our way a little bit. We’ve gotten out of our rhythm, and we can’t seem to find our way back. We all want it and we all are fighting for it, but we’re not executing. We’re making way too many mistakes, and it’s really killing us. It’s not the other team. Yes, Rutgers, they had a lot to play for; they got their first [conference] win. But I think we need to fix ourselves. I don’t think it’s so much the other team.”
In the first set, the Owls struggled from the start, and quickly fell behind 8-2. Rutgers went on to win the set 25-15.
Temple began to play slightly better during the second set, taking its first lead of the match at 5-4, but quickly allowed Rutgers to tie the score at six. The second set featured 14 tied scores and five lead changes, before Rutgers pulled ahead 18-15. But with freshman outside hitter Tyler Davis serving, the Owls came back to take the lead. The Scarlet Knights continued to make it difficult for Temple, scoring on the Owls’ first match point to make the score 24-23, before Temple finally won the set on a kill by Matautia.
“I think we really made some adjustments on serve receiving and really tried to focus on the basics,” Ganes said of the second set. “And I think that helped us a little bit, and we were able to be competitive and win that second set.”
Rutgers opened the third set with three points, and Temple responded with three of its own. But then Temple collapsed, as Rutgers rattled off ten straight points and never looked back, cruising to a 25-16 set victory.
Ganes was frustrated with his team’s performance in the third set.
“Going to the third set, we just started out the set with a lot of unforced errors, and that really put us in a really, really big hole and we couldn’t really dig ourselves out of that,” Ganes said.
The fourth set had a similar dynamic to the second set, but with a different outcome. The two teams once again changed leads five times, but then Rutgers pulled ahead 23-19, while the home crowd, looking for its first conference triumph, roared at every Rutgers point. The Owls did themselves credit by fighting hard to the end, even drawing the score to 23-22. But the match ended with the Scarlet Knights pulling off the upset, 25-23.
Temple now will head to Connecticut, where they will try to end their three-game losing streak against the Huskies (13-17, 4-11 The American).
Matautia said the team will bounce back from the loss to Rutgers, although the quick turnaround for the Sunday game will be difficult.
“I think we have to look at what happened this game, and the past couple games,” Matautia said, “and change something. Like I said, I think we need to focus more on ourselves than the other team. We have tonight to think about it, and we have practice tomorrow, and then right back at it on Sunday.”
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.