Volleyball kills five-game non-conference losing streak

Volleyball loses to Pittsburgh and New Mexico, but sweeps Morgan State.

The women’s volleyball team wrapped up its non-conference schedule this weekend at the Pitt Blue and Gold Classic, going 1-2 in three games.

The Owls lost their first match 3-0 against Pittsburgh before sweeping Morgan State and losing in four sets to New Mexico. The win against Morgan State snapped a five-game losing streak.

Temple opened with a match against the Panthers and was outplayed for most of the match as they lost in straight sets. Sophomore outside hitters Gabriella Matuatia and Elyse Burkert tied with a team high seven kills.

The match against Morgan State finally ended the Owls losing streak as the team won 25-19, 25-16 and 25-14. Matuatia recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs. No Morgan State player notched more than five kills.

In the final match against the New Mexico squad, the Owls brought pressure despite being the underdog. Matuatia, who was named to the All-Tournament Team, had another double-double with 14 kills and 11 assists while Burkert led the match with 19 kills, a season high.

“I felt good. I was really proud of myself, individually, and also as a team,” Matuatia said about the All-Tournament honor.

The Owls managed to steal the second set, and stayed close in the third and fourth sets but were overpowered in the end by the Lobos squad.

“I’m sure they didn’t expect us to come up with a fight, and they expected to kind of beat on us, but we came out and gave them a run for their money,” Matuatia said.

“If you look at their roster, if you look at the paper, we have no business even competing with that team,” coach Bakeer Ganes added.

Ganes was very pleased with the way his team fought against tough competition over the weekend, saying that playing against better teams will only help the team prepare for the Atlantic Ten Conference.

“What we saw this weekend was really good and I feel really confident going into [conference play] that we can certainly compete with a lot of teams in the conference,” Ganes said.

Temple now stands at 4-9 on the season heading into its A-10 schedule, which opens with away contests against Xavier and Dayton. Despite a tough schedule and a very young team, the squad has already matched its win total from last season and there are still 15 games remaining.

“The way the schedule was filled out, it’s been great competition, quality competition, all the way to this weekend and I just wanted to see how we would do against some really good teams,” Ganes said.

“I think it’s definitely prepared us for conference, playing these good teams,” Burkert added. “They really challenged us and we really stepped up and competed with these teams and that was really good for us.”

After a rough first half of the season, the Owls are primed for an A-10 schedule that, while it has plenty of competition, does not match up to teams the Owls have already faced this season like New Mexico, Syracuse and Villanova.

Now the team seems to be embracing an underdog role, looking for a chance to surprise the A-10.

“That’s what our story has been all season, and that’s how it is going to be for the rest of the season,” Ganes said. “We certainly have no pressure. Not a lot of people are counting on us and we’re okay with that.”

But they aren’t taking anything for granted. While the Owls feel they can compete with anyone in the conference, they know that no match is guaranteed and that the next 15 games will be a tough ride.

“Regardless of who we’re going to play we don’t want to underestimate any of the teams,” Matuatia said.

“Anybody can beat anybody in a given day, especially us taking over that underdog role, we’re certainly not going to underestimate anybody,” Ganes added.

For now, the Owls have their sights set on taking on an Xavier squad that went 12-3 in the A-10 and finished second in the A-10 Tournament. The Owls will travel on the road to meet the Musketeers at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Jake Adams can be reached at jake.adams@temple.edu.

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