The women’s volleyball team returned to North Broad for a four-game home stand against George Washington Friday night. But the comforts of home didn’t help the Owls.
The Owls were swept in straight sets for the third consecutive match, dropping to 2-6 in the Atlantic-Ten Conference. After two losses last weekend at Saint Louis and Duquesne, the team was hoping to bounce back, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“We were excited, it’s always nice to be at home and play in front of your friends and your family,” freshman setter Tiffany Connatser said.
“This was definitely an opponent we wanted to beat, especially because they had a similar record, at least before this weekend,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “This is definitely somebody we’re going to fight for the fifth or sixth spot to go into the conference tournament.”
Temple fought hard in the opening set, but with the score 9-10, the Colonials went on a 7-2 run to take the first set handily, 25-19. After another close battle to start the second set, the Owls found themselves down 14-16 when they used a time out.
“I gave them a couple indications of what they could do in order to fix [the blocking],” Ganes said. “I really told them we’ve got to pick up our defense.”
Temple responded, taking a 22-20 lead, but the wheels came off and George Washington took four of the last five points to win the set.
“If you look at the last four points we made a lot of errors that basically cost us the set,” Ganes said.
“It always hurts to lose that close,” junior libero Chelsea Tupuola said. “But we played so hard throughout that whole match and losing by two points was probably the worst feeling.”
The Owls were unable to recover and dropped the third set, 25-19. Only sophomore outside hitter Elyse Burkert reached double-digit kills, with 10. Tupuola had another spectacular night in the back court, however, recording 21 digs.
The defense managed to hold the Colonials’ best hitter, junior outside hitter Lauren Whyte (287 kills this season) to just eight kills on 29 attempts, but they were torched by senior middle hitter MacKenzie Knox’s 15 kills. Temple’s size at the net was their ultimate undoing.
“George Washington, I’ve got to give them credit, they did a really good job exploiting [size] and that really hurt us,” Ganes said.
“It’s frustrating, especially in our conference right now we know that everybody’s just beating everybody, so anything is up for grabs,” Tupuola said.
For the offense to regain some ground in the A-10, the offense also has to take a big step. None of the Owls three leading scores—senior outside hitter Collin Wallace, sophomore outside hitter Gabriella Matuatia and Burkert—were able to take over the match.
It’s something that’s plagued the team of late. Poor passing and serve-receive, as well as a miniscule .094 hitting percentage, are things the team will have to improve before Saturday’s game against Charlotte.
“It would have helped if our hitters would have finished plays to take pressure off the block, and that’s something we just didn’t get done today,” Ganes said.
“Everyone’s scouted us, we’ve scouted everyone [in the A-10],” Connatser said. “If we’re more consistent with our passing and our serve-receive then I’ll have three options every time and be able to throw the ball around a little more.”
The Owls return to action on Saturday at 7 p.m. in McGonigle against A-10 rival Charlotte.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org