Written by Greg Frank- @g_frank6
The Owls welcomed the Connecticut Huskies to McGonigle Hall on Wednesday evening. Temple entered the contest on a three-match win streak and had won nine straight sets. While the Owls set streak was eventually halted at 10, Temple came out with a 3-1 win after losing to UConn 3-2 on October 14.
Temple got off to a hot start winning the opening set 25-16 and outhitting UConn .346 to .129. Junior middle blocker Kirsten Overton and sophomore outside hitter Izzy Rapacz led the way early combining for eight kills on 11 attempts and just one error.
The second set was the first set the Owls lost since a match on November 6 at Tulane. The Huskies leveled the match at a set all coming out on top 25-21. It was a sloppy set for Temple as the Owls had seven errors to only 12 kills as the team headed into the locker room all even at halftime.
The Owls certainly looked like a refreshed bunch in set three getting off to a hot start and ultimately finding themselves with a 23-18 lead and had the set seemingly in hand. But the Huskies made a late push to even the set at 23-23. Temple coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam took a timeout. The Owls won three of the final four points to take the set 26-24 and claim a two sets to one lead in the match.
“I thought it was a huge momentum swing,” Ganesharatnam said. “We had a little lead there and UConn did a good job getting on a run and that’s the thing, volleyball is a game of runs, that’s going to happen.”
This seemed to be a critical juncture in the match as Temple outplayed UConn in the fourth set winning easily 25-16 and holding the Huskies to just 10 kills in the set. The win solidified Temple’s second place position in the American Athletic Conference standings as Temple and UConn came into the match second and third in the conference standings respectively.
Sophomore hitter outside hitter Irem Asci led the team in kills with 17. Asci noted the team had some extra motivation besides the loss to UConn the first time the two teams met. On Sunday, SMU celebrated a conference championship by cutting down the net. But the Owls mathematically can still finish even with the Mustangs in the conference standings. Granted, Temple has to win all three of its remaining matches and Southern Methodist must lose out, but it is still a possibility and the Owls were angry over the premature celebration.
“After that SMU thing, we were like ‘What is happening?’,” Asci said. “We were so mad and it kind of pushed us.”
Finishing strong and at least clinching second place in the conference standings for the season is a huge goal for the Owls, with now just three matches remaining. The first of which is on Friday against Tulsa and Temple will close things out by facing SMU and at East Carolina. Having the first two of the final three matches at home was a point of emphasis for sophomore middle blocker Janine Simmons.
“We have Tulsa and SMU and they’re both really good teams,” Simmons said. “I think being at home is definitely going to be an advantage for us. So we’re going to have to use the energy as well as create our own energy and get a positive mindset going for the match as soon as possible.”