Home is where the wins are for the volleyball team this season.
The Owls added two more victories to their stellar home record last weekend, defeating
their Atlantic Ten Conference East Division rivals, George Washington, 3-1 (30-19, 30-24, 28-30) and Charlotte, 3-0 (30-26, 30-27, 30-25) at McGonigle Hall.
The Owls (12-10 overall, 5-3 A-10) hold a two game lead over Charlotte (15-9, 3-4) for first place in the East Division. The division winner earns a first round bye in the A-10 tournament.
And the Owls’ 10-1 home record sure helps that cause.
Junior Yue Liu paced the Owls with 15 kills, 10 digs and four blocks against the 49ers, while junior Ying Sun Ling contributed 10 kills and nine digs.
Sophomore Patricia Vernon chipped in with 13 kills and three blocks.
“Last year we split two matches with them and it was kind of frustrating because we knew we could beat them,” Vernon said of the Niners.
“So we just came out strong this match and finished strong to get the win.”
Coach Bob Bertucci said he was pleased with the level of competitiveness that the team showed against the 49ers.
“It was a point-for-point game,” he said.
“Statistically, Charlotte was supposed to beat us by two points. If you look at everybody we played, the match scores [and] the game scores are exactly the same. The score itself might be two points difference in their favor.
“Statistically, Charlotte as a team would be like one notch above us,” he continued. “It was a very even match and for the team to come out and win in three, I think was huge for us.”
The Owls had 10 blocks against George Washington (9-10, 2-5) Friday night and held the Colonials to a .134 hitting percentage. Liu, Ling and Vernon each finished the match with double-digit kills and senior Maira Mogollon dished out 49 assists.
“We played a fast offense,” said Mogollon,
who ranks sixth in the A-10 in assists, handing out 11.07 per game. “Our main focus was serving the ball deep into their zone since we knew that was a weakness for them. We also tried to hit the lines to make their block less effective.”
Coming off two tough conference losses to Dayton and Xavier, the Owls spent a majority of practice last week working on blocking. The team ranks ninth in the A-10 in blocking, averaging only 1.89 per game.
“We looked at why we lost those matches and our blocking is just killing us,” Bertucci said. “We’re just not blocking enough balls. We’re not touching enough balls…and that’s your first line of defense. So if that breaks down, your second and third line of defense breaks down. So we have to get better at blocking.”
Blocking will be crucial for the Owls with six of their final seven matches on the road. The team is just 2-9 away from McGonigle Hall and 1-3 in road conference matches, losing to Dayton, Xavier and St. Louis. The Owls travel to West Point, N.Y., Tuesday for a non-conference match against Army before returning home to face La Salle Oct. 25. Then they hit the road again for the season’s final five matches. The Owls must learn to keep their poise on the road, Bertucci said, to accomplish their goal of securing a bye in the A-10 tournament.
“The key for us is going to be keeping our composure and staying in contact with the teams point for point,” Bertucci said. “And the last five points of the game we just have to really give that extra push and come out two points ahead.”
The Owls are buoyed by the support they get from the fans at McGonigle Hall and the team has to find a similar type of drive when on the road, Vernon said:
“We need to find that motivation.””We just have to play our game,” junior Christina DeMarco said. “If we play our game it doesn’t matter where we are … If we play like we did [against Charlotte], we’re going to be very successful.”
The team has a different demeanor when it’s playing on its own floor, Liu said. “We’re more confident at home,” Liu said, “and confidence is very important. How can the team improve its confidence on the road? We need to keep winning and keep communicating with each other out on the court,” she said. “We have to make the road matches [feel] like home matches.”
Tyson McCloud can be reached at email@example.com.