Written by: Adrian Maghacot
Photo by: Temple Volleyball
SMU senior middle blocker Alex Glover scores six kills with a .667 hitting percentage on route to a sweep of Temple.
The Owls traveled to Dallas to face SMU (20-8, 13-3 AAC). SMU was looking to capture its 20th win on their Senior Night, which would be the highest win total for the team since 2017. The last time these two teams squared off was back on October 21st, a four-set SMU win in Philadelphia.
Temple is coming off of a dominant 3-1 win over Memphis. In that game, junior outside hitter Jelena Prolic had 18 kills and 11 digs, which was her 11th double-double that season. It was also the ninth time this season the Owls had eight or more service aces.
Going into the match, head coach Linda Hampton-Keith was facing off against a fellow first-year head coach. SMU head coach Sam Erger spent her previous eight years at Baylor as an assistant coach, leading the team to its third consecutive NCAA Regional Semifinal.
The first set was a dominating one for SMU. The team immediately got into a four-point run after two service errors from the Owls and a kill from captain and senior opposite hitter Marieke van der Mark. After graduating from Baylor this past spring, van der Mark is making an impact on the roster with 264 kills this season, which is more than 53% of her total kills throughout her Baylor career.
The Owls then started to trade points, but the Mustangs went on a massive 10-point run to end the set with a 25-10 score. This run was attributed to a few factors, but primarily three block assists and a kill by van der Mark and two service errors by Prolic. Those 10 points were the fewest points SMU allowed in a set this season.
Set two started very similar as sophomore outside hitter Jamison Wheeler scored three consecutive kills. Temple climbed back early with two kills by redshirt senior right-side hitter Peyton Boyd and tied it up at 11. Both teams started trading points, but SMU managed to get three more three-point runs all in part to two Temple errors and two kills by graduate middle blocker London Austin-Roark. Ater that last run, SMU closed the set with a 25-17 score.
The third set did not see the teams trading points, but trading runs in the first half. SMU got started with a three-point run, but the Owls answered back with a run of their own by Prolic and sophomore outside hitter Taylor Davenport.
After that, both teams started to trade points again until SMU got within three points of winning the game and Temple trailing by six. The Owls tried to mount a comeback after a three-point run with Prolic leading the charge, but after a bad set by sophomore setter Magdalena Rogalska, SMU won the final point and the game with a 25-21 score.
The Owls struggled throughout the game with only 19 kills compared to their 24 total errors. The team also finished with a .000 hitting percentage, one of the lowest of the season. In contrast, SMU did have two more errors than the Owls, but had 23 more kills and a .257 hitting percentage.
Looking at the bigger picture, SMU won eight of their last nine games, including six other sweeps. For the Owls, this game marked the seventh loss in a sweep they dropped to 12 losses in conference play.
Temple’s Star Players and Struggles: Prolic led the Owls in kills and points with six and seven, respectively and sophomore liberal Falanika Danielson had 14 digs. Besides that, the team struggled in all facets of the game, including Davenport, who had more errors than points.
SMU’s Star Players: SMU performed well with setting up good kills and that can be attributed to junior setter Celia Cullen, who had 36 assists. Wheeler and Austin-Roark contributed to most of SMU’s success with 14 combined kills and 20.5 points.
Score by set: (10-25), (17-25), (21-25)
Temple (10-17, 4-12 AAC) will return home to face USF (9-17, 3-11 AAC) at McGonigle Hall on Friday, November 18th, at 7:00 PM on ESPN+.