After winning the Atlantic 10 title last year, Temple (1-5, 0-0) is favored to repeat as conference champions, as voted on by the coaches.
After a rough start, Temple netted its first win over Villanova, 3-1, Tuesday night. The Owls began the 2003 season slow at the North Carolina Invitational, losing their first three matches.
The losing streak continued at the Ohio State Invitational after falling to 12th-ranked Georgia Tech and 18th-ranked Ohio State.
Bertucci has good reasons to believe why his defending A-10 champs are starting off so slowly: injuries and conditioning.
“The upperclassmen came back out of shape,” Bertucci said. “They worked hard in the spring, but I’m very disappointed with the upperclassmen following the summer fitness and condition programs.”
There are currently four players on the Owls’ roster that injured themselves within the first and second workouts of the season.
Bertucci believes that these sudden injuries stem from the players not keeping up with the summer training program.
After going through a rigorous off-season training regimen last spring, the upperclassmen on the team returned from summer vacation out of shape. Bertucci and his coaching staff were extremely disappointed by the lack of preparation.
The summer conditioning and fitness programs were not being followed by some players, and Bertucci believes it’s the cause of the Owls inept play.
Senior outside hitter Xu Yun, last years’ A-10 Player of the Year, has been ineligible for the first six games after changing her major and the team hopes to have her back within a week.
Despite the brief setback, players such as junior Alison Runk and senior co-captain Yamit Haba are determined to work hard until the team is back to where they expect to be.
They believe confidence and the right attitude will enable them to maintain A-10 supremacy and get back into the NCAA Tournament.
Runk says the experience and confidence that won her the Setter of the Year award last season must be applied throughout the entire team. Haba feels that chemistry is slowly but surely coming around as the team begins to get reacquainted with each other.
Freshmen Jessica Wayrant and Linsey Morningstar, who were supposed to red-shirt this season, are now gaining experience that will assist the Owls in the long run.
Due to a spate of injuries, both will not only be asked to step-up and make plays, but to start as well.
“Younger players are getting experience,” Bertucci said. “And [for the upperclassmen] it’s going to be real competitive to keep their positions.”
Before the Owls shift focus on the future, right now their main goal is just to get everyone healthy again for conference play.
When the injuries heal, team chemistry will improve.
Coming into this season they had high expectations and once the level of fitness is reached and synergy present, coaches and players believe their expectations will be met.
“The chemistry is very good,” Haba said. “Our short term goal is to get in shape and blend as a team.
Our long term goal is to win the A-10 Championships and do good in the NCAA Tournament.”
Donnell A. Jackson can be reached atDonellj@temple.edu.