The Owls entered Friday’s matchup against Cincinnati tied for second in the American Athletic Conference. Temple fell in five sets at McGonigle Hall, making every game a must-win situation.
The Owls (19-7, 12-4 American Athletic Conference) bounced back on Sunday afternoon to earn a straight sets victory against East Carolina at McGonigle Hall. Junior outside hitter Irem Asci had 19 kills and hit 55.2 percent to lead Temple’s 25-16, 25-19, 25-20 victory.
Temple has now won seven of its last eight games and sits in third place in The American. The team’s next matchup is on the road against Central Florida on Friday. The Knights beat the Owls in five sets on Oct. 16 at McGonigle Hall and are one game behind Temple in the standings.
The team added two transfers and a freshman before the year started and changed its offensive system. All of the new pieces are falling into place for the Owls.
“We’re all just finally coming together,” senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton said, “Of course when you get so many new players and they are coming in and starting it’s kind of hard to get everyone together and on the same page. It’s a process so I think know we have learned each other and we are coming together as a team.”
The first set started with unforced errors from both teams. Temple held an early one-point lead, before a 7-1 run put the Owls up 13-6 and forced an East Carolina timeout. The Pirates couldnt’ slow Temple’s momentum, as Temple went on an 8-3 run to go up 23-13 before closing out the set.
The home crowd got loud before East Carolina’s serves to help force three service errors in the opening frame.
“The crowd is very important for us,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said, “As much as our players feed off the crowd, it does have a certain intimidation factor for the opposing team as well.”
The Pirates offense made six attack errors in the first set, but improved early in the second. The Owls called a timeout once the set was at tied 15. Temple went on a 10-4 run after the timeout to win the second set.
East Carolina took an early 6-5 lead in the third set after unforced errors by both teams. The Pirates’ offense could not regain the efficiency it showed at points in the second set.
Temple made five of its seven blocks in the match to control net play and stop the Pirates from getting kills. This effort led to a 9-4 run that put Temple up 18-12. East Carolina’s timeout only got the crowd back into the game before a kill by senior outside hitter Caroline Grattan sealed the deal.
“We didn’t really want to give up runs,” Overton said about the game plan, “That is kind of what happened with Cincinnati, we gave up a lot of runs. We kind of focused, and went back to basics, scored points, and took off from there.”
Temple had a few standout players in this game. Asci added nine digs to her kill total, while junior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz added 11 kills, hit 45 percent and got eight digs. Junior setter Kyra Coundourides added seven digs to her 43 assists.
Ganesharatnam’s squad is going to return to a fundamental approach in the final stretch.
“We’re going to really simplify everything and we’re going to really focus on the next match and try to play well in the next match, but put ourselves in a position where we can compete for a W,” Ganesharatnam said.
Demetrius Mason can be reached at email@example.com.