Sports

Mustangs end Owls’ bid for conference title

The Owls now need an at-large bid to make the NCAA tournament after their four-set loss to Southern Methodist on Friday.

The Mustangs jumped around in a circle in celebration after the fourth set, while the Owls crouched over and stared at the ground before huddling together and shaking hands.

The Owls’ four-set loss to Southern Methodist on Wednesday eliminated them from winning an American Athletic Conference title.

Temple needs an at-large bid if it is to reach its first NCAA tournament since 2002. While a win against Southern Methodist on Oct. 9 helps the Owls’ resume, their postseason fate is in the hands of the selection committee.

Temple (21-8, 14-5 The American) was one point away from forcing a fifth set after a kill by senior outside hitter Tyler Davis. The Owls then lost two straight points and were forced to tie the set at 26. The Mustangs scored two straight points to win the final set 28-26.

“We were just one point away, that close to forcing the fifth set,” junior outside hitter and libero Dara Peric said. “It just shows how much the little things mean We were that close. If we get one ball down we would’ve been in the fifth set.”

In the fourth set, junior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz had eight of her team-high 16 kills. Rapacz hit 60.9 percent for the match. Junior middle blocker Janine Simmons also added five kills in the last set.

It looked like Southern Methodist was going to end the match in straight sets. In the third set the Mustangs were up big late, leading Temple 21-16. Temple rattled off 10 of the next 11 points to win the third set 25-22.

“We were able to get in a rhythm in that third set,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “In the first couple of sets we had a lot of unforced errors and it really hurt us as a team cause we weren’t consistent and could never be in our rhythm.”

Southern Methodist won the first two sets, 25-22 and 25-17. In the first set the Mustangs hit 38.1 percent, and improved to 40 percent in the second set.

Since joining The American, Temple and Southern Methodist have played eight times. The teams have split their matchups every year, but this season is the first time the home team lost. Temple and Southern Methodist have been two of the top teams in the conference the last three seasons, with both teams finishing in the top three in the standings.

“We always get extra energy, and get extra excited whenever we play Southern Methodist,” Simmons said. “Over the last three seasons we’ve played exciting matches, and we’ve been at the top of the conference so it feels like it is becoming a rivalry.”

The Owls will finish their season Friday afternoon against Tulsa at McGonigle Hall. It is the last regular season game for Davis, senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton and senior outside hitter Caroline Grattan.

Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at kevinschaeffer@temple.edu or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.

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