Owls lose AAC championship game to Knights

Temple University volleyball defeated the University of Houston in the semifinals on Friday and lost to Central Florida in the title game.

Junior outside hitter Gem Grimshaw bumps the volleyball during the Owls' match against the University of Cincinnati at McGonigle Hall on March 26. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University volleyball won 3-1 in the The American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals against the University of Houston on Friday but lost 3-1 in the championship game to the University of Central Florida on Saturday. 

“We were very proud of making the tournament,” said head coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam. “We put together a pretty good run at the end that got us the seed and the opportunity to be here. We wanted to make sure we represented our program and our university in the best way we could possibly do.” 

On Friday, the Owls (11-6, 4-4 The American Athletic Conference) lost the first set to Houston (13-6, 9-1 The American) 25-18, but they quickly bounced back, winning the next three sets 25-23, 25-14 and 25-18. 

Junior outside hitter Gem Grimshaw stood out on offense and led the team in 17 kills while also recording nine digs and five blocks in addition to her .341 hitting percentage.

“[Grimshaw] really grew into her position and she improved throughout the season, and I think she came into this tournament as a good player but she is leaving it as a star,” Ganesharatnam said. 

Junior outside hitter Miray Bolukbasi and sophomore middle back Kayla Spells followed close behind Grimshaw on the stat sheet. Bolukbasi served up 14 kills, nine digs and three blocks, while Spells had 11 kills and six blocks. Junior setter Tyler Lindgren finished with 49 assists and 14 digs. 

In Saturday’s match, the Knights (16-1, 8-0 The American) won the first, third and fourth sets with scores of 25-20, 25-13, and 25-20. Temple won the second set with a score of 26-24. 

Temple’s defense played hard in all four sets while trying to combat the Knights’ aggressive playing style. The first match was tight, with neither team holding more than a two-point lead until the Knights scored three consecutive points, bringing the score to 13-10. 

Grimshaw ended Saturday’s match with 20 kills and 11 digs, and Lindgren recorded 47 assists and 11 digs. Both players earned spots on the All-Tournament Team, despite Temple’s loss in the championship game. 

Senior outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou ended her Temple career with 12 kills and eight digs on Saturday.

This was the first time Temple received a bid to play in the AAC Tournament and its first time finishing the season with a winning record since 2017. 

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