Jennifer Iacobini knew her team missed an opportunity.
The senior middle blocker recalled a trip to Florida a year ago, when it faced the Central Florida followed by the South Florida two days later.
At the time, Temple entered the Sunshine State 6-1 in its first seven American Athletic Conference matches. Yet, the Owls dropped back-to-back 3-0 decisions on the southern road swing, and soon lost four of their next six matches.
The Owls closed out their season against the Florida teams, and would finish with a 9-9 record in conference play.
Iacobini, one of Temple’s two seniors, said the season would not have spiraled out of control if the team had posted better results against both Florida s chools.
“[It would have been] a lot different,” Iacobini said. “We probably would have been Top 3 in the conference.”
This season, having lost two of its top players from a year ago in Gabby Matautia and Elyse Burkett, Temple features a revamped roster, but Iacobini said the team wants to make a statement this weekend when the Owls return to Florida with matches against UCF on Friday and USF Sunday.
“We definitely want to prove ourselves,” Iacobini said. “When we went there last year they demolished us to say the least.”
Defense developing identity
Coach Bakeer Ganes knows his teams strengths and weaknesses.
In recent years, Temple has struggled to generate blocks. Temple has 92 blocks this season, but sits close to the top of The American in digs (16.39 per set) and hitting percentage (24.5).
“We were never the strongest blocking team and we don’t have to be the way we play,” Ganes said.
Defensively, the tactics change depending on the opponent. In a conference like The American, Ganes said there are numerous opposing hitters his team will have to prepare for.
“We want to serve in a position that puts them out of system so they can’t set certain hitters,” Ganes said.
The team’s defensive identity is simple. Ganes wants his team to be able to end points quickly.
“We want to close out rallies faster,” Ganes added. “We don’t want to get into back and forth. Physically, a lot of times, we are not capable of doing that especially against bigger teams.”
For Ganes, it’s easy to get the team to understand their goals defensively.
“It’s actually not that hard because we can’t physically be a great blocking team because we are limited in that aspect.”
Davis hits season high
Despite playing in 22 matches a year ago, sophomore Tyler Davis only started in nine. This season, Davis has already started eight matches this season for Temple. The outside hitter’s role has expanded significantly and Sunday’s match against East Carolina saw her hit a season high 35.7 percent and post a team-leading 13 kills. Sunday’s match also was the fourth in which Davis posted double-digits kills. Davis is averaging 2.82 points per set and 2.47 kills per set.
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @G_Frank6