Temple’s game against Rhode Island (8-14, 4-5 in the Atlantic 10 Conference) on Sunday played out almost exactly like the Owls’ (15-8, 5-4 in the A-10) Friday night win over Fordham, except for one critical thing.
Temple didn’t walk away the victor.
“We weren’t quite in the rhythm that we wanted to be in,” junior outside hitter Elyse Burkert said. “It seemed like we were working really hard to do things that we normally don’t have to put so much effort into doing well.”
Two nights after junior outside hitter Gabriella Matautia set a career high with 30 kills, the Hawaiian native knocked down another 25 kills, along with 20 digs.
“It was great to see her do that,” Burkert said. “It was kind of relieving because you know she could do it.”
“It was hard seeing that someone just put up more effort than any of us,” senior libero Chelsea Tupuola said of not being able to win with a performance like that. “She did a great job this weekend.”
Temple kicked off the match with a 25-18 first-set victory, much like the Owls start to the Fordham match. And again the team dropped the next two sets, including the third in extra points, 30-28.
“Towards the end of the first set we got a little bit sloppy,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “We had some errors, concentration errors, and that kind of gave, I think, Rhode Island some hope and we just couldn’t keep up the cleanness of the match in the second and third set.”
“We should have stuck with our game plan, not get too comfortable,” Tupuola said.
Temple rallied in the fourth set, which went back and forth for its entirety until Matautia broke a 22-22 tie with a kill followed by two unforced Rams errors.
Rhode Island dropped the first point of the fifth and deciding set with an attack error, but recovered quickly and never trailed again. At one point they held a 10- lead, which the Owls were able to chip away at, but the hole was too deep.
Coach Ganes said the referees didn’t help matters.
“I never said anything like this in my career, but this is the second time we got screwed by the referees,” Ganes said. “And I never, ever blame the referees for the outcome of the match, but it’s almost impossible to come out here and win.”
“This is just frustration I guess talking, but I’ve never seen anything like that in my career,” he added. “It’s just crucial calls at crucial moments were given to Rhode Island, and clear calls. It’s just a pattern, it’s not just one or two calls we’re talking about four, five or six calls in an entire match.”
Both Ganes and Burkert said they did as much as they could not to allow the calls to affect their play, but did believe that those few points likely changed the outcome of the match.
“That’s frustrating and it’s frustrating for the girls too,” Ganes said. “I guess it’s part of home court advantage. We can’t use that as an excuse.”
“We tried to just shake it off and play the next point, and I think we did a good job of it, but sometimes it comes down to a few points,” Burkert said. “Bad calls at bad times lead to things like that.”
Rhode Island walked away with a 15-10 set victory, giving them the match and evening the season series at one game apiece.
The loss dilutes the team’s Friday victory over Fordham, however. While the team holds the series advantage over the Rams, they can’t afford many losses with the season winding down clinging to the last A-10 playoff spot.
“We definitely can’t relax on these last few weeks of the regular season,” Tupuola said. “We have to stay focused one game at a time and take it from there.”
Temple returns to McGonigle Hall for the weekend as they try and stay in the playoff hunt. They host Virginia Commonwealth University (21-3, 7-2 in the A-10) on Friday before taking on Charlotte (9-12, 1-8 in the A-10) on Saturday. It’s their second last weekend at home of the season.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.