The Owls lose their second A-10 road game at Dayton.
After weeks on the road and a 1-6 record, the women’s volleyball team is ready to return to the confines of McGonigle Hall.
The Owls dropped their first two games in the Atlantic Ten Conference in the opening weekend of conference play, falling in straight sets to conference powers Xavier and Dayton. The losses wrapped up a three-week road swing that saw the young squad get overmatched on more than one occasion.
“It might not look that way, if you look at the win and loss [record], but this team is actually getting better,” coach Bakeer Ganes said after [the Sept. 23] loss to Xavier. “We’re really progressing in the right direction.”
The Owls’ roster, which features four freshmen, faced competition away from North Broad, losing to Pittsburgh, Villanova and New Mexico. The coaching staff hopes that the tough non-conference schedule and the opening weekend in A-10 play prepares the team for the remainder of the season.
“The thing is when you train a team, or when you train young athletes, you work, and work, and work and you don’t see a big difference until they hit that spot and they just go out,” Ganes said. “I think we’re right there, we’re really close, and eventually we’re going to hit that spot and the results are going to come.”
The Owls went up against Xavier on Friday night and put up a fight throughout the match despite losing 3-0. Temple had one of its best hitting performances in the loss, tallying a .204 hitting percentage, but they were overpowered by Xavier’s .285 hitting percentage.
Once again the sophomore duo of outside hitters Gabriella Matuatia and Elyse Burkert led the team with eight and 13 kills, respectively. Matuatia, in particular, has been a big focal point in offense this season.
“A lot of these teams have lots of staff members and a lot of time, and they’ve been breaking down tape on us,” Ganes said. “So their game plan is basically to put an extra blocker on [Matuatia] and basically slow her down or stop her, which really opens up other opportunities for our outside hitters as well.”
Matuatia tacked on another nine kills Saturday night against Dayton, but the Owls still lost in three sets, 25-16, 25-18 and 25-14.
“Dayton is an absolutely tough team, one of the best teams in the country, and you don’t get a lot of chances to prove yourself or to compete against one of the top teams,” Ganes said.
Despite the consecutive A-10 losses, the team is staying positive about the rest of the season.
“The thing is, we’re losing some games to some really quality opponents,” Ganes said. “It’s not like we’re losing games to opponents we should be beating 3-0. We have to keep an eye on that and keep that in perspective.”
The Owls’ schedule finds them back at home against Rhode Island and Fordham for the first time in weeks.
“I can’t wait, I know the girls can’t wait,” Ganes said. “It’s been three weekends we’ve been on the road. That’s a pretty long time.”
The Owls take on Rhode Island as a part of ‘80s night. The theme is part of the new campaign trying to promote volleyball games on campus. Fans are encouraged to wear ‘80s inspired clothes, and there will be a “best dressed” competition.
“[We’re] trying to get a lot of students to come to our match to support us and have a home crowd and we want to make it a fun event for everybody,” Ganes said. “We’re really looking forward to being back home and having fun with the students that come to support us.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.