Volleyball remains mired in lengthy losing streak

The team loses its eighth-straight game after it was swept in straight sets by Charlotte on Sunday.

The team loses its eighth-straight game after it was swept in straight sets by Charlotte on Sunday.

There was no magic in McGonigle Hall on Sunday, as the volleyball team lost its eighth straight match to Charlotte on Halloween Day.

“Every time we come out, we get better, compete and fight,” coach Bob Bertucci said. “We just make mistakes at critical times, and we can’t afford to do that.”

Charlotte swept all three sets, winning 25-17, 29-27 and 25-21, despite Temple playing competitively in every game of the match.

The first set was sloppy for the Owls right from the start, as errors and miscommunication allowed the 49ers to get off to an early lead, 9-6. But the Owls showed poise as they went on a six-point run and took a three-point lead. It was back and forth as the teams traded points until sophomore Bianca Rouse led Charlotte on a late run to seal the convincing 25-17 win.

“We played their game in Game 1,” Bertucci said. “We didn’t stick to our game plan, and we had really poor blocking.”

Bertucci said the team seemed to lose composure as the 49ers went on their late run, adding that the Owls’ youth was a factor.

“It’s the youth of our team,” Bertucci said. “We lose composure and struggle in pressure situations but play great when we’re down a lot and there’s no pressure.”

In the second match, the Owls took it to extra points and the lead changed 10 times. Despite being simply overpowered by Charlotte’s attackers early in the set, Temple stormed back behind freshman Elyse Burkert, who led the team with 10 kills, and took the late lead.

The Owls had plenty of chances at set point to put it away and even the match score, but they  struggled getting over the hump and ultimately lost, 29-27.

“We competed well, but we were just a little tentative when we had those late chances to put it away,” Bertucci said. “It was just a matter of who would make a mistake first, and we slipped up.”

Both teams exchanged points back and forth in the third set, but Charlotte seemed to stay one step ahead early on. Bertucci said his offense played pretty well in the set, but the defense struggled with blocking and got stuck in rotation on saves because of inexperience on the frontline. The set saw eight ties, the last of which came when it was 9-9. Eventually, the 49ers went on a 13-6 run to put it away and complete the sweep.

Senior libero Ariel Pierre and sophomore libero Chelsea Tupuola led Temple with nine digs each, and senior Kara Raker paced Charlotte with eight digs of her own. Rouse led Charlotte with 13 kills, including the game-winner in the third set, and Raker followed with 10 kills.

The win moved Charlotte to 14-12 overall, 5-6 in conference play, and it kept them in the race for the final spot in the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament to be hosted by Xavier in a few weeks. The Owls, who haven’t won since they beat Long Island in early October, fell to 4-21 overall and 1-10 in the conference.

The Owls, who reached the semifinals last season, failed to make the tournament this year.

Bertucci kept things simple when it came to breaking the slump:

“It’s simple. We have to win a game. We have to be prepared for La Salle next,” he said.

The Owls will have a chance to snap that losing skid when they travel up Broad Street on Wednesday to face La Salle. La Salle, which lost to Temple in the teams’ last meeting, is 4-20 overall and 0-10 in conference play.

Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at brandon.stoneburg@temple.edu.

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