The volleyball team entered Saturday’s game against Fordham by winning seven of its last eight games. That put them in a place to capture the Atlantic Ten Conference East Division crown.
That is exactly what happened, as Temple won the match, 3-0, at McGonigle Hall. The two teams will rematch Friday in the A-10 tournament first round.
With the win the Owls moved to a record of 14-17 overall and 9-4 in the A-10. Fordham dropped to 15-19 overall and 5-8 in the A-10.
The Owls started the match with a quick victory in Game 1, winning 30-19.
“In first game, our passing was real good and our side-out part of the game was excellent and that got us off to a good start right away,” coach Bob Bertucci said.
That looked like it might set the tempo for the rest of the match, but that was not the case.
The Rams took the lead in Game 2, courtesy of their intensity and several mistakes by Temple. But the Owls fought back. A dig by Sun Ying Ling sparked a rally.
Temple took the lead and forced game point. Fordham tied it at, 29-29, but it was not enough. The Owls scored twice to win the game.
Cayleigh Ashman, a middle blocker, said “strong defense, blocking and hitting deep in the court” keyed the comeback.
Game 3 took similar shape, as Temple took the lead early, but let Fordham back into the game. Again the game became tied at, 29-29. This time, the Rams took a 30-29 lead, but the Owls scored two points to win the game and the match, 32-30, and, 3-0, respectfully.
“Today was a great win. If we keep working hard we can be successful,” said Yun Yi Zhang, who had a match-high 23 kills. “Our team has improved, our team defense has improved and our team needs leadership and I try to work hard to set an example.”
The dig by Sun Ying Ling in Game 2 was not only game-changing, but record setting. That dig Ling made her Temple’s all-time career leader with 1,646 digs.
In a season of early losses and late success – the Owls lost five of their first six matches – Bertucci said patience was necessary.
“It’s a new team and we have a lot of new players,” he said. “It’s about time and working through the process and they did that. They worked very, very hard over the season. We probably got done in one year what teams would have done in two years. That’s allowing us to have success now.”
Temple enters its 12th straight A-10 tournament Friday. The Owls have not won the tournament since 2002.
“In the Atlantic Ten tournament anything can happen,” Bertucci said. “I think it’s going to be how [the team] can manage their emotions. A team that can release themselves and come out and play will be successful.”
“Trying to bring our team to a championship, it is very important to me and everyone,” Zhang said.
As for a prediction of the outcome in the A-10 tournament…
“I can’t tell right now, but we want to win,” Zhang said. “The feeling would be good.”
Nicholas Hollenstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.