The first set of any match can often be the most important for a team and really set the tone for the rest of the game. Friday, the Owls went through another tough opening set, this time at the hands of the Xavier Musketeers.
Once again, the Owls continued their trend of tough first sets in Friday night’s five-set win against the Musketeers.
While the Owls won the first set 25-22, it was a back-and-forth affair that saw nine ties and five lead changes, with no team ever opening up a larger lead than four points, at which Temple led 14 to 10. Both teams kept exchanging points throughout the remainder of the set, with both teams tying at 20 and again at 21 and 22, but the Owls gutted out three straight points to take the first set.
After the game, second-year coach Bakeer Ganes had nothing but praise for his squad, especially against a high-caliber team like the Musketeers.
“If you are close or within a couple points of Xavier, I’ll take that any day,” Ganes said. “Obviously, there was a trend earlier this season where we started out slow, but we made some adjustments and we talked about it and I thought we came out really, really focused.”
“We were able to hang with Xavier within a couple points, that’s more than I can ask for,” Ganes added.
Junior outside hitter Elyse Burkert said the team talked about doing things a little differently before tonight’s game.
“We cheered a lot more, and we did a few different things preparing for the game, and trying to get us a little more into the game and getting a feel for it,” Burkert said. “So, we definitely felt a little more in it the first set compared to most games.”
The strong opening set by the Owls against a team like Xavier may not have been expected by many, but by the time the match went into full-force, the Owls knew they were doing something right.
“We got on top of them. One, [Xavier] opened their eyes and thought, ‘OK, this is going to be harder than we thought.’ Two, we can’t get so comfortable,” Burkert said.
In regards to the second set, Burkert said she felt that it should have belonged to the Owls as well.
“We took that first set, and we needed to stay on them so we could have taken the second set. We were up with them [at] 20-20, and we just let go with all our errors,” Burkett said.
The trend of tough opening sets and slow starts dates back to last week’s game against Rhode Island, in which the Owls came away with the win but found themselves down 7-1 early and even down 23-20 near the end of the set. The Owls were able to regroup and score five straight points to pull out that game. Last Saturday’s game against Fordham continued the pattern, as there were seven ties and four lead changes before the Owls could finally take the set.
With the Owls next opponent being the Dayton Flyers, who are ranked No. 20 in the nation, the trend of slow starts must be avoided if the Owls want to find themselves in a position to pull off another upset.
Justin Golec can be reached at email@example.com.