Battling fatigue and a tall Dayton front line, the volleyball team lost its first home game of the season Saturday. The Flyers eked out a 3-2 victory over the Owls in the second of a set of games with possibly broader implications.
The matchup with the Flyers, which came one day after a 3-2 win over Xavier, helped the Owls (14-9, 7-2 in the Atlantic Ten Conference) gauge their chances in the final eight games of the regular season.
“That’s what we’re going to face in the [A-10] tournament, back-to-back games like this,” coach Bob Bertucci said. “[The team] has to be prepared for it.”
Dayton, coming off a 3-0 sweep of La Salle, took over the top spot in the A-10 standings with the victory. The Flyers improved to 15-9 overall, 8-1 in the conference, with the win over a beleaguered Owls team playing less than 19 hours after the finish of its previous game.
As a result, the Owls’ hitting was off, and they struggled on offense. Bertucci stressed chasing every ball, but the fatigue factor played a significant role in the Owls’ inability to keep up the enthusiasm all game.
“I don’t want to make excuses for [the girls] but they were tired,” Bertucci said.
“We hit .111 as a team in the final game [of the match],” he added. “Our offense was non-existent.”
The Owls dominated the third game of the match, holding Dayton to a mere .051 hitting percentage, but they were not able to sustain enough force to hold Dayton off in the final two matches.
Sophomore Yue Liu totaled 28 kills and 13 digs, and senior captain Zhen Jia Liu added a .409 hitting percentage and 22 kills. Ying Sun Ling added 21 digs as Temple’s defensive specialist.
The Owls totaled four blocks as a team in the match, leading Bertucci to again call on his middle blockers to step up.
“They’re going to be better in the tournament,” said Bertucci of both Dayton and Xavier, whom the Owls may have to face on a neutral court. “So we’ve got to get two times better to be able to win.”
One of the keys was holding Dayton all-America candidate Faye Barhorst to around a .200 hitting percentage. The Owls were able to do that, but other Flyers stepped up.
“We won the battle, but lost the war,” Bertucci said.
Junior setter Maira Mogollon totaled 55 assists, impressive considering she had 66 assists just the night before.
In the fourth game of Friday’s match, the Owls claimed victory over Xavier (14-8, 6-2) in five games despite losing a hard-fought fourth game in which the teams battled to five lead changes before the Musketeers won, 35-33.
Christina DeMarco had 15 kills and six block assists, along with freshmen Patricia Vernon’s 12 kills in the win. Yue Liu led Temple with 25 kills and 20 digs, followed by captain Jia Liu’s 19 kills and 20 digs.
Keeping up with the fast-paced Xavier offense took a lot of the wind out of the Owls, leaving them just drained enough for Dayton to come into McGonigle Hall and outlast them in a five-game match.
As for Temple’s tournament hopes, Bertucci stressed the importance of every win for the remainder of the season.
“These games were close,” he said. “That shows me its going to be a whole lot tougher in the tournament. We need to work on it.”
The Owls will have the eight games remaining this season to do just that.
“If we would have beat them [both] 3-0, we could have been lax,” Bertucci said. “Now we see how tough the A-10s will be.”
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.