After starting out strong, Temple had to regroup late to battle past Connecticut on Wednesday. It took the Owls five sets to take down the top team in the American Athletic Conference.
The Owls (9-4, 2-1 American Athletic Conference) handed the Huskies their first conference loss and have now won seven of their last eight games.
Temple took control of the match early, cruising through the first set winning by seven points. The second set was more of the same early, as Temple jumped out to a 22-16 lead. Connecticut began a comeback after that, scoring seven of the next eight points to take the lead. Temple closed out the set with three straight points to win 26-24, and take a 2-0 lead.
“We really played exceptionally well in the first set,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “It was hard to keep the same level of play up, and the small amount of errors, for the whole match and that’s how [Connecticut] really caught up.”
Facing a potential straight sets loss at home, the Huskies battled back to take the next two sets. Connecticut took the third set 25-19, leading the entire set after taking the first seven points. Neither team took more than a four-point lead in the fourth set before Connecticut tied the match won the fourth set 25-23.
The Owls hit less than 20 percent in the third and fourth sets, compared to 32.3 percent in the first set.
“I wouldn’t say the sets were opposite of each other,” Ganesharatnam said. “We just had more unforced errors and Connecticut is a really good team, any match that goes five sets could go either way.”
Temple went on to win the fifth set 19-17 and win its first five set match of the year after three losses. Junior outside hitter Irem Asci followed up her career-high 26 kills against Houston with 28 kills on Wednesday, including the 1000th kill of her collegiate career.
“We’re really proud of Irem, but if she was talking about it she would say she’s happy about the kills but more happy about the win,” Ganesharatnam said. “Everyone on the team is focused, and works their butts off for each other, and everyone stepped their game up today.”
Junior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz added a double-double, with 18 kills and 16 digs. Junior setter Kyra Coundourides added assisted 58 of the Owls’ 72 kills and sophomore libero Mia Heirakuji had 18 digs from the back row.
Temple will continue play in The American on Sunday against Memphis, which is winless in two conference games.
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.