After a trip to China, the Temple women’s volleyball team came into the regular season prepared more than most.
In a two-week span, the women squared off against some of China’s top volleyball teams including the Red Army, Nankai University, Tianjin Volleyball Club and Shanghai. This brief international trek put the Owls at somewhat of an advantage having scrimmaged against teams at a higher level than they will see this season.
“The trip to China improved our ability to play the game,” said seventh-year coach Bob Bertucci. “We faced very tough competition, tougher than our West Coast trips and I think that will help us a lot.”
|“The trip to China improved our ability to play the game. We faced very tough competition, tougher than our West Coast trips and I think that will help us a lot,”
coach Bob Bertucci.
Temple, who finished third in the Atlantic-10 last year, went 2-2 at the West Virginia tournament last weekend and hosts the Temple Invitational against Delaware, St. Peter’s and Villanova starting Friday.
But playing 40 games in China doesn’t make up for the departure of senior All-American Alma Kovaci. The team only has one returning senior in middleback Christine Happel, who is nursing an ankle injury suffered in China.
The team has 10 players on its rotation and added 5-foot-11 Shu Liu, a transfer from China to help at outside hitter.
“We were lucky enough to get Shu, who is experienced but has not played in a few years,” Bertucci said, “but once she gets in shape she will be able to help us.”
Bertucci is also hoping that freshman setter Allison Runk will be able to come in and contribute immediately. Runk, who can hit, set, pass and play the defense the team will be using this season, will back up Solana Lee.
Yamit Haba, last year’s Atlantic-10 Rookie of the Year, also returns, but has yet to return to last year’s form, according to Bertucci.
“Her role is changing this season and the team is depending on her, but she is not where she needs to be right now,” Bertucci said.
With all the returning players and the high expectations of winning the Atlantic-10 and reaching the NCAA Tournament, there is always room for improvement, something that lone senior Happel has taken seriously during the off-season.
“I worked on ball control this summer,” she said. “It’s still improving, but it’s definitely getting to where I want it to be.”
Other players have either attended or worked at camps, each trying to strengthen their fundamentals.
“We need to improve on serving which will be more important than before because it will give us our best chances to score,” Bertucci said. “We also need a lot of improvement in the connection between our setters and hitters. Our setters are not setting very well and are too inconsistent. Our hitters need to be much more efficient as far as unforced errors.”
Bertucci thinks Temple has a chance at being a good team.
“It’s too early to tell,” he said. “I think we could be a very good team. Will we have enough fire power is yet to be seen. We need to minimize our errors so we could beat the other team instead of beating ourselves.”