The Owls had a fairly easy time on the road against Cincinnati on Oct. 23. They won in three sets and hit 12 percent better than the Bearcats.
Cincinnati got its revenge on Friday night in McGonigle Hall with a five-set victory. Temple (18-7, 11-4 American Athletic Conference) started the match tied for second with Cincinnati in The American’s standings.
The loss means Temple falls one game behind Cincinnati and two games behind Southern Methodist. The Owls need Southern Methodist to lose another game and to win the game against the Mustangs on Nov. 23.
“We go into every game as a must win for us,” junior setter Kyra Coundourides said. “But we are definitely looking forward to playing [Southern Methodist] head to head.”
Neither team went up by more than four points to start the first set. A slam by sophomore middle blocker Iva Deak ended the first frame, with Temple winning 25-22. The Owls’ serve receive in the opening frame made it easy to set up hitters, Coundourides said.
Temple improved its hitting in the second set to 25.9 percent, but it wasn’t enough to stop the run the Bearcats went on to end the set. Cincinnati scored six of the last seven points to win the set 25-18.
Cincinnati won the third set 25-22, partially because the Owls hit just 9.1 percent. The Owls made eight attack errors in the third frame.
“Cincinnati is a great, athletic team,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “They put a lot of pressure on us, and really took us out of our offensive system.”
Temple bounced back in the fourth set, led by junior outside hitters Izzy Rapacz and Irem Asci, who combined for seven kills in the set. Temple hit 36.7 in the set and won the frame 25-16.
“We adjusted really well in the fourth set,” Asci said. “Our serve receive game was what really helped us, we weren’t working that well early on but we came together as the match moved on.”
Cincinnati made sure to end Temple’s comeback bid. The Bearcats won the last set 15-5, and Temple did not score a single point for the for the last seven serves. The Owls hit 5 percent in the frame.
Asci and Rapacz both finished with 18 kills to lead the team. Coundourides led the team with 52 assists. Defensively, Rapacz had 18 digs, junior outside hitter Dara Peric had 12 and Asci had 11. Senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton finished with a match-high six blocks.
The Owls will play on Sunday at 1 p.m. against East Carolina, which is on a five-game losing streak. Temple defeated the Pirates earlier in the season in four sets.
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.