Temple University volleyball (1-0, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) won 3-2 against Morgan State (0-1, 0-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) in its first match of the season on Saturday evening. This was not only the Owls’ first game of the season but their first game at McGonigle Hall in almost 15 months.
“It felt really great to be back,” said head coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam. “Obviously it’s very different and the circumstances are very different, but once we all got back into the gym at 2 o’clock, I met with my staff, started the process to prepare for warm-up and stuff, it just felt great.”
The team practices with masks on at all times and is tested for COVID-19 three times a week, The Temple News reported.
The Owls started strong by scoring the first four points and winning the first set 25-14. Freshman defensive specialist and libero Nikki Shimao made a miraculous save during the first set and finished the game with three assists and two digs.
“I was very happy for the freshmen who have been tremendous,” Ganesharatnam said. “This group’s attitude is exceptional and their work ethic is great, so I was very happy.”
Temple struggled defensively in the second and third sets and was defeated by the Bears 25-17 and 27-25.
The Bears’ style of play was different from what Temple usually sees when they play conference opponents, Ganesharatnam said.
“We just focus on ourselves a lot,” Ganesharatnam added. “We wanted to serve aggressively because we felt like if they are out of system, their numbers go down a lot.”
The Owls adapted to the Bears’ unique style and came back to win the last two sets with a score of 25-20 and 15-12.
During the final set, the teams traded leads several times until Temple finally went up by two points after junior right-side hitter Peyton Boyd recorded a kill on an assist from junior setter Tyler Lindgren, making the set score 10-8. The Owls would then never relinquish their lead.
“Their numbers aren’t as good if they don’t have to pass before they hit it,” Ganesharatnam said. “We really focused on that attack a lot, especially [Tylar Roberson], who is a good player, and we wanted to put some pressure on her.”
Sophomore defensive specialist Nikki Saito finished the game with one kill and five assists, and she led the team with 17 digs. Junior outside hitter Miray Bolukbasi led the team in points scored with 19.5 and Lindgren led the Owls with 45 assists.
Temple’s next game is at home against La Salle (0-0, 0-0 Atlantic 10) on Jan. 29 at 5 p.m.