Temple came into Wednesday night’s match against Connecticut expecting a battle.
The Owls entered the contest in sole possession of second place in the American Athletic Conference, while UConn came in tied for last among the conference’s 11 schools. But earlier in the season, UConn beat up on Temple in Storrs, Connecticut.
As a result, coach Bakeer Ganes wasn’t going to take the Huskies lightly.
UConn proved up for the challenge on Wednesday night as Temple would pull out a 3-2 victory by scores of 25-22, 22-25, 25-22, 20-25 and 15-11 in what was a back-and-forth affair.
“The last two or three days I’ve been saying how tough this match was going to be and people thought I was crazy,” Ganes said. “I have to give UConn a lot of credit. I think they came out to play today and we knew that.”
Temple would struggle for most of the night offensively. The Owls .256 hitting percentage in the first set was the highest they would hit in any of the five sets, and in sets two, three and four, Temple hit considerably below .200.
“We made a lot of unforced errors and that certainly contributed to a lot of the long rallies and points we lost,” Ganes said.
Defensively, the Owls were up for the task at hand on Wednesday night. Temple had four players record double digits in digs and in the three sets Temple won, the Owls held the Huskies to hitting percentages of .286, .127 and .211, respectively.
“There weren’t very many plays that ended quickly on both sides of the net, so when that happens, defense is the only thing you can fall back into and you just have to keep getting the balls up hoping the hitters will put it down,” junior libero Alyssa Drachslin said.
Temple has had several tight matches this year, particularly against Southern Methodist and Tulsa at home, matches that went five and four sets, respectively. Wednesday night was another tightly contested affair.
“It’s always good to win and at the end it doesn’t matter how,” junior setter Sandra Sydlik said. “We don’t really care at the end if it’s five, three or four [game sets].”
Ganes said at this point in the season, with just five matches left, it’s imperative for his team to grind out wins like it did against UConn.
“If we’re not battle-tested by now, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Ganes said.
Temple improved to 21-6 overall and 12-3 in The American with the win, and will host East Carolina on Friday night.
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @g_frank6.