In Friday night’s 3-0 win over South Florida by scores of 25-23, 25-18, 25-21, Temple coach Bakeer Ganes admitted his team was struggling early on.
Temple entered the match tied for second place in the American Athletic Conference standings while South Florida came in seventh in The American. However, when Temple got behind early in the first set and was staring at 1-0 deficit when it trailed, 22-17.
The Owls were able to grind it out, as the set’s lone lead change came at its conclusion, which had Temple on top, 25-23.
“I thought the movement on the court wasn’t very good,” Ganes said. “Usually it’s very, very rare that you come back from a deficit like that, but we were able to do that and I’m very happy about that.”
Ganes used both his timeouts during the quick start for South Florida, and junior setter Sandra Sydlik said he just wanted the team to settle in.
“[Ganes] told us to get into our rhythm,” Sydlik said. “He didn’t put pressure on us at all.”
Once the Owls were able to play their game things would come much easier in routine victories in sets two and three. Junior middle blocker Halle McCullough led the team with 13 kills.
“We need to play our game and focus on our side and the rest will come,” McCullough said, commenting on the Owls mentality in sets two and three, which weren’t as challenging for Temple.
Sitting at 19-6 overall and 10-3 in The American, the Owls have one of their biggest challenges of the year coming on Sunday. The first-place team in The American, Central Florida, will visit McGonigle Hall on Sunday afternoon as the Owls will try to avenge a 3-0 loss to the Knights earlier in the season and hand Central Florida its first loss in The American.
“It’s a big, big, matchup for us,” Ganes said. “It’s a big challenge. But it’s a great challenge. You want it as a competitor you want to play against the best, you want to see how you can do. We’re very excited about this opportunity and we want to make the most of it.”
With Temple entering Sunday’s showdown on a seven-game winning streak, Sydlik said her team is looking forward to its matchup against the conference leaders.
“We know how good they are,” Sydlik said. “But we also know how good we are and we definitely want to beat them.”
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @g_frank6.