After five sets of McGonigle Hall shaking from the noise of chairs slamming and fans cheering, there was silence as Tulane finished off the fifth set 22-20 to earn its first conference win.
The Owls (7-4, 0-1 American Athletic Conference), who thanked the fans for their support, lost their first conference matchup, ending a five-match winning streak. The game was back and forth, as neither team won consecutive sets.
The first set started very slow for the Owls, who fell behind by as much as nine points before eventually losing 25-18. The slow starts were common for the Owls, who found themselves behind early in the first three sets.
“We need to come out with more energy next time,” senior outside hitter Tyler Davis said. “We know we have a target on our back, teams are going to come in [to Temple] and give us the best they have, and we have to be ready.”
With the threat of losing the match, Temple gained control in the fourth set, winning 25-22. In the fifth set, no one could secure the win, going back and forth until Tulane won 22-20. A strong offensive attack helped Tulane, picked to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason coaches poll, beat the Owls, who received two first-place votes.
The Green Wave, who entered the match with the conference’s highest hitting percentage, converted 24.9 percent of their attack attempts. The Owls attacked at 15.9 percent efficiency and committed 35 errors compared to Tulane’s 23 in the match.
“We realized it’s about the little things, they really add up,” sophomore libero Mia Heirakuji said. “That’s something we’re going to work on, if we were able to have a couple less errors we would’ve won.”
Offensively junior outside hitters Izzy Rapacz and Irem Asci were the focal points. Asci had 21 kills while Rapacz had 17 in five sets. Davis also added 10 kills, hitting 22.2 percent. Defensively, Heirakuji and junior setter Kyra Coundourides both had 18 digs to lead the team. Senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton finished with four blocks, the most for the Owls.
Temple looks to bounce back and avoid falling to 0-2 in The American on Sunday against Houston.
“Every game we play in this conference is going to be tough,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “This conference is going to be very tough, and to stay in games we’re looking to limit errors. In the game of volleyball the team with the least unforced errors usually wins, and we want to be that team.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.