Young team has mixed results in Big 5 tournament at the Palestra.
The volleyball team captured its first win of the season Saturday in the Big 5 Tournament, in a win over La Salle, before it fell to Villanova in straight sets.
The Owls, 1-4, opened the tournament on Friday at the Palestra against the University of Pennsylvania, falling in straight sets. Senior middle hitter Jessica Antosz led the team with 10 kills in 19 attempts, but 10 service errors proved to be too much to overcome.
The Cherry and White bounced back Saturday morning, dominating La Salle at times to win in straight sets. Set two went down to the wire, but La Salle could not keep enough serves in play to overcome the Owls in a 27-25 Temple victory. Unfortunately, the serving issues that plagued the team
in the match against Penn returned in the third set, until junior setter Rikia Trischuk closed out the match with an ace. Antosz led the team again with nine kills in the match.
That was about the best the team could manage. In the third match against Villanova, bad serving and missed blocks plagued the Owls. Junior defensive specialist Kim Maroon’s six aces led the Wildcats. Freshman outside hitter Matuatia Gabriella led the Owls with only four kills.
“They did a good job of executing, and we were always on the defense,” Temple coach Bob Bertucci said.
A ball hit out of play, which was initially called in before Villanova coach Josh Steinbach argued the call, summed up the tournament for the Owls as the referees eventually changed the call and erased a crucial point for the Owls. Bertucci argued with the referees about their controversial call, but to no avail.
A bad call was not the only problem. Sloppy serving and uninspired plays haunted the team for most of the tournament.
“[We were] always on the defense, and not in control of what we were doing so that we could bring the attack to the opponent,” Bertucci said. “We were always recovering from what the opponent did.”
Temple had 30 service errors throughout the tournament, including 10 in the match against the Wildcats with only two aces, a total that coach Bertucci was not pleased with.
“We’re just very inconsistent with our serving right now,” Bertucci said. “And I think that, losing focus sometimes, trying to do too much with the serve. I think that the girls are just having a tough time settling down in competitions and taking care of business.”
The Owls, who are in a transition year after losing their star setter and middle hitter following last season, are looking for senior leadership but have been unable to find the right balance so far. The team did not communicate effectively during the tournament, something that experience and leadership must take care of.
“We have a pretty good senior class, so the seniors obviously have to do their part,” Bertucci said. “We can’t have seniors not being able to pull their weight. We need to have the seniors step up and be much more consistent.”
Bertucci praised Antosz, who was named to the Big 5 All-Tournament Team, and senior libero Ariel Pierre for their consistent play, but believes the rest of the team, especially the freshman class, needs to step up.
“I think it’s a baptism by fire,” Bertucci said. “Unfortunately they’re not coming into a situation where they get a year to mature and kind of get the feel of it, and make that transition from high school to college.”
One of the biggest uncertainties heading into this season has been how Trischuk will handle the responsibilities of setter, after replacing departed senior Jackie Morrison.
Trischuk had few errors during the tournament, but was not impressive, and needs to improve dramatically if she is to command the offense. Without a strong setter, essentially the quarterback of the team, the Owls will quickly lose control.
“She’s really struggling,” Bertucci said. “She’s got too many things going on in her head. It’s like the quarterback who can’t decide what play he’s going to run because he knows them all but he can’t make a decision on which one to do. That’s kind of what she seems to be struggling with right now.”
The Owls will have some time to recoup before their next match, against North Dakota in the Montana Invitational on Friday. If they are to come away with victories over North Dakota, Utah State, and Montana, the team will have to work together effectively and avoid costly mistakes. Blocking and serving, as well as Trischuk’s command of the offense, are especially crucial to the team’s success.
“I think after I review the film we’ll have some concrete things we’ll need to work on,” Bertucci said. “Really, we just got to get better in all aspects of our game and that’s all we can hope to do right now.”
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.