After a disappointing road stand, the volleyball team made a triumphant return home to McGonigle Hall.
Temple picked up its first Atlantic Ten Conference victory of the season after the team attained its best hitting percentage of the year and defeated division rival La Salle. It was the Owls’ first victory in three weeks and their first home match in more than a month.
The Owls took down La Salle in straight sets for a 3-0 victory. They won by scores of 25-21, 25-12 and 25-18. Senior middle blocker Jessica Antosz led the team with a showing that included 10 kills, five aces, four blocks and just one error on 16 attacks to hit .562 for the match. As a team, Temple hit at a .375 winning percentage.
Senior libero Ariel Pierre and junior setter Rikia Trischuk were also major contributors in the Owls’ second victory over the Explorers this season. Pierre averaged more than four digs per set and led all players with 13 total digs. Trischuk averaged more than 10 assists per set, with a match-high total of 32.
The team played at McGonigle Hall for the first time since Aug. 28, a stretch that included 13 matches on the road, of which the team won only three. The long, grueling road trip included the Big 5 Tournament, in which the team went 2-4 with victories over La Salle and Rider. The Owls also went 0-3 in the Montana Invitational, with losses to North Dakota, Utah State and the University of Montana. The team also participated in the Tar Heel Classic, where the Owls suffered losses against Appalachian State, Ball State and North Carolina. The team would lose matches to Princeton, Rhode Island and Fordham before it finally returned home to Philadelphia.
With the month-long road stand in the rear-view mirror, the team is relieved to finally have a chance to play some games at home on Broad Street. In fact, the team’s next three matches will also be played at McGonigle Hall. Coach Bob Bertucci said it felt like a big weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.
“Although we have some tough competition ahead, it’s huge for us to be home. The amount of stress and anxiety traveling creates can be overwhelming,” Bertucci said. “Being home and having the upcoming weekend off will give them a chance to catch up on their academics as well as give them a break athletically – that will help a lot.”
Despite the victory on Wednesday, it has been a difficult season for the Owls. Including the Temple Invitational into the team’s record, the team is just 3-15 overall and 1-2 in A-10 play.
“The one thing we have really struggled with is the fact that we have five or six older players and six or seven new players, so the team chemistry is certainly a work in progress,” Bertucci said. “It’s going to take some time to build it up.”
If the team’s chemistry is going to improve this season, the Owls have 14 remaining games to do so, nine of which will be played at McGonigle Hall. All but two of the matches left to be played are critical A-10 contests, with the exceptions being bouts against Long Island on Oct. 5 and Central Michigan to close out the season on Nov. 27.
Bertucci remains upbeat and optimistic about the team’s current season.
“I think they’ve been doing a lot of things real well actually,” Bertucci said. “The girls came back in great shape, the best of any team we’ve had so far. They’re very committed to the program. We lost our key All-American, Yi Zhang, after she completed her eligibility.”
“Imagine a football team losing their Heisman Trophy winner or All-Conference quarterback,” Bertucci added. “It’s tough to come back from that, but this team has been doing real well with it so far.”
The team’s pursuit to turn its season around continues tonight at 7 p.m. against Long Island in McGonigle Hall.
Tyler Sablich can be reached at email@example.com.