Heading into its match against SMU on Sunday, Temple ranked second in The American with a chance to capture first place with a win.
“For us to be in this position, it is unbelievable,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “The future is bright for this team.”
The Owls were unable to move up in the standings, though, as they fell to the Mustangs on Sunday afternoon in four sets.
“[The Mustangs] are just a complete team,” Ganes said, “They perform in every aspect of the game, so when you play them, you have a small margin of error.”
SMU traded set wins with the Owls, as the Mustangs took the first and third sets 25-18 and 25-19, while the Owls picked up the second set, 25-20.
The Owls were ready to make a comeback in the fourth set, rebounding from a 6-1 start by SMU. They kept the set within a few points and eventually forced a 24-24 tie. SMU prevented the Owls from getting two consecutive points and eventually captured the set 29-27, giving the Mustangs the victory and eliminating the need for a fifth set.
Despite the loss, the Owls had a strong night on defense, with sophomore Tyler Davis collecting 25 digs and junior Alyssa Drachslin earning 23.
On offense, freshman Dana Peric had 9 kills and 20 digs for a double-double, while junior Sandra Sylik notched 38 assists on the night.
The match against SMU wraps up a weekend in which the Owls were unable to get a win against a pair of SMU and Tulsa teams that are both a part of the Top 5 teams in the American. With two matches remaining in the regular season, Ganes said the team is aware of the impact of everyone’s performance in the match.
“At this stage, (the close conference standings) are always on your mind whenever you play,” Ganes said.
Ganes also pointed out that for several on the team, fighting for wins down the stretch at the collegiate level is a relatively new experience.
“We have a very young team. For example, our two outsides are a freshman and a sophomore,” Ganes said.
After today’s match, the Owls, Tulsa, and SMU are tied for second place — each team possessing a conference record of 13-5.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose, but in retrospect it is good experience for our young players to play against a veteran team,” Ganes said. “Even though we won’t [be playing against SMU and Tulsa] again, we have to see what we can do with the last two regular season matches.”
Ashlyn Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AshlynMiller8.