Temple’s volleyball team concluded its brutal west coast trip last week, losing to two Top 20 programs in back-to-back nights.
The Owls began their weekend Friday night by falling to the 18th-ranked Utah Utes, and finished Saturday with a loss to Brigham Young University, the 10th-ranked program in the nation.
Despite both contests producing the same results, the flow of the games could not have been more different.
At Utah, the Owls matched the home team hit for hit, shot for shot, and point for point as they pushed the undefeated Utes to their absolute limit.
Temple lost the match three sets to one by scores of 18-16, 16-14, 16-18, and 15-1.
Senior outside hitter and reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Week, Alma Kovaci recorded 32 kills and 18 digs in the contest, proving that she deserves to be considered amongst the nation’s elite.
“It was good volleyball,” Temple coach Bob Bertucci said. “Both teams were doing what they can do well. But all of a sudden they elevated their play when it really got down to wire and eeked it out.”
Bertucci explained that the ability to take it to the next level when the game is on the line is what separates the Top 20 programs from everyone else. He saw that characteristic in his team in the third game at Utah, but the Owls simply couldn’t duplicate the feat on the Utes’ home floor, losing the fourth game by a wide margin.
“With the last four or five points (in the third set) I think our players really started to show that next level and put it into high gear,” Bertucci said. “Psychologically, after we did that (win the third set) we kind of hit the wall (and) just never recovered.”
The next night, the team traveled to BYU and suffered a convincing loss, three games to none, by scores of 15-2, 15-5, 15-2.
After competing well the night before, the Owls couldn’t match that intensity for a second straight match. Temple’s tilt with the Cougars was its fifth game against a ranked opponent in nine days as the Owls fell to 3-6 on the year.
But don’t be fooled. Temple’s record is not an indication of where this team stands. Instead, it is a direct result of tough scheduling.
After losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament three consecutive years, Bertucci wanted the Owls to be battle-tested for the post season.
“We won the conference three years in a row and have a lot of returning players,” Bertucci said. “We need to play tougher competition and see some of these better teams so when we face them in the NCAAs (we’ll be ready).”
The Owls open their A-10 schedule this week on the road against George Washington and Duquense. The Colonials are regarded as one of the top teams in the A-10 this year, and should give the Owls an early gauge of whether their tough non-conference scheduling has paid off.
Temple’s next home game will be in McGonigle Hall on Friday, Sept. 29 at 7:00 p.m. against the Dayton Flyers.