In AAC standout’s absence, freshman steps up against Cincinnati

With senior outside hitter Irem Asci out due to an injury, freshman outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou had 11 kills in Sunday’s four-set win against Cincinnati.

Freshman outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou (left), attempts to block an attack in Friday's loss to East Carolina. | MIKE NGUYEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Freshman outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou knew how big of a role she would have to play in Sunday’s match.

With senior outside hitter Irem Asci out indefinitely due to an injury, Papazoglou had big shoes to fill. Asci is one of five players with at least 90 kills this season and made the American Athletic Conference’s first-team squad in her first two seasons after transferring from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Papazoglou finished with 11.5 points, 11 kills and 18 digs in Temple’s (8-6, 4-2 The American) 3-1 win against Cincinnati at McGonigle Hall. In Friday’s match against East Carolina, she had eight kills, 10 digs and nine points. She now has double-digit digs in three straight games.

“I felt good,” Papazoglou said. “I was more focused today, and that helped me play a lot better.”

After Sunday’s game, Papazoglou’s points total increased to 52. She has 39 kills, 65 digs, eight assists and a 23.8 hitting percentage.

The start was Papazoglou’s second on the season. Papazoglou had five of Temple’s 15 kills in the first set, including back-to-back kills that helped Temple go on a 6-2 run to pull ahead, 12-9. Papazoglou combined for five kills in the second and third sets.

“She is somebody who puts a lot of thoughts into her performance,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “I thought she really took it back to the basics today, and that really allowed her to focus. She did a very good job today”.

Temple has won four of its last five games. The Owls will travel to Tampa, Florida to take on South Florida on Friday at 7 p.m. The Bulls have a 2-4 conference record, but they beat Temple once in the two matchups between the teams last season.

“This was a crucial win for us, absolutely,” Ganesharatnam said. “Even though Cincinnati lost one of their best players [to injury], they are still a very good team. They made an appearance in the NCAA tournament last year and they’re very well coached and very talented.”

Early in conference play, Temple is tied with East Carolina for second in the league. Wichita State and Southern Methodist lead The American with perfect 6-0 records.

“Everyone on this court wanted to win,” Ganesharatnam said. “I told them to not be too tight and take a step back and take a different angle on things. We said that we wanted to come together today, and I thought they did a great job of bouncing back”

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