It’s usually not a good sign when a team starts off with three attack errors in the first six points of a game.
The Owls (17-10, 7-6 in the Atlantic 10 Conference) did just that on Sunday in their match against Butler (16-11, 6-7 in A-10), falling behind 4-2 in the opening set, en route to Temple’s four-set loss to Butler in a crucial Atlantic 10 Conference match.
Things didn’t improve for Temple in its final road match of the season. Shortly after the early mistakes the Bulldogs went on a 9-1 run, pulling ahead for good in the first set which they won 25-14.
Temple didn’t recover in the second set, either, falling behind 9-4 and never mounting a significant comeback. Butler used its size advantage to force multiple mistakes, something that was a theme throughout the entire match.
“I guess it’s pretty simple, we just didn’t perform well,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “Butler did a good job but I think we just didn’t perform well.”
After dropping the second set 25-19, the Owls showed signs of life in the third set with their backs against the wall. Temple opened up with an 11-6 lead thanks in large part to junior outside hitter Gabriella Matautia’s five kills in that span. She tacked in the team’s 25-20 third-set victory and would finish with a double-double of 17 kills and 13 digs. But it could have been considered a triple-double as the Hawaiian native led the match with 15 attack errors as well.
“The third set was closer to how we play,” Ganes said. “I thought we controlled the ball pretty well. We put some pressure on them with the serves and some of the attacking, but the main thing was we played defense and we passed the ball well.”
The momentum didn’t last, however. The fourth set started out back and forth, as a kill by senior outside hitter Jingyu Zhang and a Butler attack error tied the set at 4-4. But the wheels quickly fell off as the Bulldogs stormed away on a 11-0 run.
The Owls stopped the bleeding momentarily, but only because of a service error by the home team. They didn’t make back-to-back points for the remainder of the set, falling 25-8 and losing the match 3-1.
“It’s kind of tough,” Ganes said. “It’s not just being down 2-0, it’s being down 2-0 and you know you played bad. It’s so much tougher to come back from that.”
“We just couldn’t keep that up,” he added. “We just kind of went back to the same rhythm we had in the first couple sets.”
Two other Owls recorded double-doubles. Sophomore setter Tiffany Connatser dished out 34 assists while scooping up 14 digs and junior outside hitter Elyse Burkert added 10 kills and 13 digs. Senior libero Chelsea Tupuola also had 14 digs, but that was as good as things got for Temple.
“Butler is a big, physical team, but I think we’re a better ball-controlling team, but we just didn’t control the ball well especially those first couple sets and the last set,” Ganes said.
The Owls now turn their attention to their final match of the regular season. They host Big 5 rival La Salle. A victory clinches a conference tournament berth while a loss means Temple needs help to secure one of the six seeds.
“I think the best thing that can happen for us is we have an off day tomorrow,” Ganes said. “Sometimes it’s kind of good to take a step back and look at these things, so I think we kind of need a time out here so we can get our minds going in other directions.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.