Even when the volleyball team is winning, coach Bob Bertucci said earlier this season, it all comes back to conference favorites Dayton and Xavier.
Though the Owls finished the regular season atop the Atlantic Ten Conference East Division standings with a 23-10 overall record, they were confronted by that all too familiar reality in last weekend’s A-10 tournament hosted by Rhode Island.
Following a 3-1 victory over No. 3-seeded Xavier, the Owls were shutout, 3-0, by No. 1 seed and two-time defending conference champion Dayton. A win in the final would have meant the Owls’ fifth-ever A-10 title, and their first since 2002. It also would have meant a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The loss does not end the Owls’ season. The Owls have three home matches remaining, including Long Island and Albany on Friday.
They will face American on Saturday in their last official match of the season. The Owls are 4-2 all-time against the Eagles, who have posted a 24-9 record this season.
In the A-10 final, Dayton was able to outhit the Owls, .308 to .179. The Flyers had the advantage in blocks, too, in extending their season winning streak to 18 matches.
The playoff loss wasn’t an isolated incident, as the Owls fell to Dayton in regular season play at home, 3-2.
“A loss is always a disappointment,” senior middle blocker Zhen Jia Liu said. “We have to work on our skills, stopping players and running transitions.”
Dayton junior middle blocker Faye Barhorst was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after the victory. She totaled 13 kills and a .632 hitting percentage in the title match. Dayton became the first A-10 team since Temple (1997-1999) to win three straight titles.
Temple had two players, sophomore outside hitter Yue Liu and freshman middle blocker Patricia Vernon, named to the all-tournament team.
This marked Liu’s second selection in the past two years. Liu totaled a double-double in kills and digs, with 12 each. Vernon added 13 kills and a .478 hitting percentage in the final.
With Dayton’s victory over No. 4 Charlotte in the other semifinal, the Owls knew before its semifinal match that a win would pit them against the Flyers. Bertucci said the Owls were prepared to meet them.
Jia Liu had a match-high 20 kills to accompany her 13 digs in the semifinal win. Yue Liu and sophomore outside hitter Ying Sun Ling also added double figures in digs to propel Temple past Dayton. Vernon added 14 kills of her own in the victory.
Xavier outside hitter Danielle Skrajewski added 10 kills and senior Jordan Brightwell had a match-high 22 digs against the Owls.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at email@example.com.