It was trick or treat for Temple’s volleyball team as the George Washington Colonials stormed into McGonigal Hall with revenge on their minds this Halloween.
The Owls won a tough, five-set victory over the Colonials in September, giving the Colonials their only Atlantic 10 loss this season. After the Owls dropped two consecutive conference losses over the weekend, the trick for Colonials was to bury Temple’s hopes of winning the conference by handing out the Owls’ third straight defeat.
With a win, the treat for the Owls was a chance to regain first place and retake control in the A-10.
Despite going to the brink of defeat several times throughout the match, Alma Kovaci and the Owls persevered to win another heart-stopping, five-set thriller that kept all in attendance on the edge of their seats. The game scores were 15-11, 10-15, 11-15, 15-13 and 16-14.
“I’m real proud of our team competing as well as they did,” Temple coach Bob Bertucci said. “Coming off a tough road trip it would have been easy for them to lose their confidence. But they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and really competed, which made the difference.”
Senior outside hitter Kovaci led the Owls with a game-high 32 kills and 18 digs. Freshman Margaret Mejewska also put together a solid game, posting 14 kills and four blocks.
The teams split the first two games before intermission, which only served as a prelude to the intriguing second half of the match. But after dropping the third game 11-15, Temple had backed itself against the wall, needing to win the last two games. The Owls had no margin for error.
GW, led by the senior duo of Renee Arnold (24 kills) and Tracee Brown (28 kills), helped the Colonials storm to an early 5-2 lead in game four. Temple responded behind its senior tandem of Alma Kovaci and Maria Vutskova (nine kills, 16 digs) to rally and tie game at 9-9.
With the game hanging in the balance, the four seniors traded kills, demonstrating A-10 volleyball at its very best. Kovaci and Vutskova made enough key plays down the stretch to squeak out a 15-13 victory.
“Temple is not going to fold,” Colonial coach Jojit Coronel said. “You know Alma is going to get her kills, and that they are going to swing for every point. Specifically against Temple, we just do not know how to finish the game.
“It’s not how you win championships against good teams.”
According to NCAA volleyball rules, the fifth and final set consists of what is called “rally scoring” where every point counts, no matter which team serves. George Washington gave Temple every opportunity to fold in the fifth set, but the Owls refused.
In the final set, the Colonials gained an early advantage at 7-3. Temple once again pulled themselves from cusp of failure to tie the game at 8-8 with some gritty play.
The Colonials came up with one last surge to up the score to 14-12, needing only a point to hand Temple its third straight loss of the season. But Kovaci and the Owls dug deep to pull out two straight points, forcing the game into a win-by-two, extra point situation.
Then, on Halloween night, things turned a little wacky.
At 14-14, Temple served. A lack of communication gave the Owls the point, as every Colonial player thought someone else would hit the ball. GW retreated, seemingly to set up its offense, while ball landed gently in the middle of the entire team.
The error gave the Owls match point, and they finished off the Colonials to end another epic A-10 showdown between two of the conference’s top teams.
“It was a great game to win,” Bertucci said with relief. “Anybody that missed it, missed a real good volleyball game. And everybody that was there will tell you it was pretty exciting.”
The Owls will drive north on Broad Street to play LaSalle in a Big Five clash Thursday, then travel to New York this weekend to play the Fordham Rams. Their next home game will be at McGonigal Hall next Wednesday at 7 pm against Big East power Georgetown.