Controversial late third-set call affects volleyball in Wichita State loss

The Owls nearly won the second-to-last point in the third set before eventually losing the frame in their four-set loss to the Shockers.

Senior middle blocker Janine Simmons (left), and senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz watch the ball fly past them during the Owls' four-set loss to No. 24 Wichita State on Friday at McGonigle Hall. | MIKE NGUYEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Looks of confusion swept over the crowd of 1,315 people at McGonigle Hall as the referee gestured with his arms to signal an out-of-bounds call.

Senior outside hitter Irem Asci was charged with an attack error. Instead of Temple earning a chance to clinch the third set, Wichita State tied the set at 23.

The looks of confusion evolved into yells of frustration.

Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam and the rest of the Owls’ sideline pled their cases to the officials but to no avail.

“I thought it was the wrong call,” Ganesharatnam said. “It happens, but it was certainly not the reason we lost the match.”

The controversial call may not have been the reason the Owls (4-5, 0-1 American Athletic Conference) lost, but it definitely changed the tide of the game.

The Owls had taken the second set convincingly, winning 25-19 and peaking in attack efficiency at 36.6 percent. Initially down 11-3 in the third set, the Owls rallied to take the lead late into the set at 23-22 against the Shockers. The crowd anxiously anticipated Temple taking a two-sets-to-one lead against Wichita State, ranked No. 24 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

Then the call happened.

After receiving a set, Asci attempted a kill. Although the ball went out of bounds, it appeared to go off a Wichita State player’s head, as her hair noticeably moved. The officials did not believe the Wichita State player made enough contact to warrant a reversal of the call.

“It’s frustrating,” senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz said. “We were definitely frustrated, and we showed that on the court. We made sure to calm down, we still had two points until the game ended.”

The Owls ended up losing the set 31-29 and never recovered. The team doesn’t have any ill will about the refereeing of the match, however.

“The referees already have a hard enough of a job,” Ganesharatnam said. “They don’t have the luxury of replay, and that’s the way they decided.”

The Owls are treating it as a learning experience, and the team hopes to take the fate of the game out of the officials’ hands and rebound against Memphis on Sunday.

“It’s up to ourselves to make sure we control everything that we can,” senior middle blocker Janine Simmons said. “Regardless of whether or not that was a ‘bad call,’ it comes down to mental toughness, and if we’re going to allow that to change the momentum of the game. We have to stay strong mentally and work on that.”

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