The volleyball team has been here before. Senior night, which marked the last home game of the season, was a time to say goodbye to the team’s graduating seniors.
Last season the Owls lost in Alison Runk’s final regular season home match in a Temple uniform. Runk was a two-time Atlantic Ten Conference Setter of the Year.
The Owls figured there was no better way to send off this year’s seniors than with a win over an A-10 rival, and they did just that.
The Owls ended their regular season with a hard fought victory over the Fordham Rams Saturday afternoon.
The volleyball team ended its regular season Saturday afternoon with a victory over the Fordham Rams. The Owls will take that momentum into the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament this weekend at Rhode Island’s Keaney Gymnasium.
The win was the Owls’ eighth straight, as they were able to beat the Rams in close matches.
“Every match in the tournament is going to be a two-point game like these were,” coach Bob Bertucci said after Saturday’s match. “We have to play like we played tonight in the tournament.”
Bertucci said he liked the Owls’ intensity against the Rams in a contest that showed the kind of close matches he expects to see in the conference tournament.
“[In the tournament] we have to want it so bad we won’t be denied,” Bertucci told the players. “The intensity we had tonight is what we need to have in the tournament.”
The Owls (22-9) finished last season’s A-10 tournament in third place, behind top finishers Dayton and Xavier.
The second-seeded Owls will open their tournament play against the third-seeded Musketeers on Friday at 7 p.m. In the only regular season meeting between the teams, the Owls came out on top, 3-2, on Oct. 21. Xavier enters the tournament with a 10-3 conference record, while the Owls are 11-2 against A-10 teams.
A win Friday would give the Owls, the regular season A-10 East Division champions, a chance to play for the A-10 crown.
Should the Owls beat Xavier, they will face the winner of a Dayton-Charlotte match, also played on Friday. The Owls split their season series with Charlotte, losing on the road, 3-2, on Sept. 30, and winning at McGonigle Hall, 3-1, on Oct. 29. The Owls’ only other loss to an A-10 team was against Dayton on Oct. 22.
Following the Owls’ win in the regular season finale, Bertucci made his prediction for the A-10 tournament.
“I expect us to see Dayton in the finals,” Bertucci said. “That’s how we’re preparing.”
Dayton, the No. 1 seed and regular season West Division champ, will take its 12-1 conference record to the court against fourth-seeded Charlotte. The Flyers are seeking their third-straight championship.
These are things the Owls need to continue doing well, Bertucci said.
All season, Bertucci has stressed the court neutrality the A-10 tournament will present.
“I’m glad we’re at Rhode Island,” Bertucci said. “Their facility is a lot like ours. That will help us to feel more relaxed and more comfortable.”
One large contrast between the Owls and other A-10 contenders is that most play in their “main facility,” Bertucci said, which for the Owls would be the Liacouras Center. The change in facility size between McGonigle and Keaney will force the Owls to adjust.
“I figure home court [feel] has to give you two or three points right off,” Bertucci said. “So we’ve had to improve two or three points more.”
The Owls have seen all three opponents in the regular season, which will allow them to look back on specific players and specific areas the team needs to improve on for each match.
Despite all the excitement surrounding the tournament, Bertucci said the Owls’ main concern is health.
“We’re moving in that direction,” Bertucci said. “Danielle [Bablich] and Stephanie’s [Buynovski] knees are sore just from regular play and practice.
“Zhen Jia Liu has been our workhorse all season,” he added. “We’re trying to allow her to do more quality work rather than quantity work that she’s been doing all season.”
Bertucci said the team’s strengths are serving and passing, two things they will work on leading up to the tournament.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.