Owls’ win keeps slim conference title hopes alive

The Owls defeated Central Florida 3-0 Friday night at McGonigle Hall.

As the season winds down for the Owls, every game has an impact on their postseason hopes.

After a win in straight sets against Central Florida, the Owls (19-8 overall, 10-5 American Athletic Conference) now sit four  games back of conference leader Southern Methodist with five conference games to play.

“Every game is important, this is a very tough conference,” Ganesharatnam said. “Being able to beat a team, especially the  defending conference champion Central Florida, is a great win for us.”

Before the game started, the Owls honored senior setter Sandra Sydlik was honored. Sydlik had recently accumulated her 3,000th career assist, and she was given a special volleyball at midcourt for her accomplishment.

“[Sydlik] is a great setter for us, and she has been for years,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “Achieving 3,000 assists is a great accomplishment. It puts her in a very select group.”

Once the match started,the Owls fell behind 18-13. But sophomore outside hitter Izzy Rapacz helped Temple regroup to win the first set 25-23. Rapacz and junior middle blocker Kirsten Overton combined for ten of the Owls’ 15 kills in the first set.

“I was definitely happy that I was able to help my team in the first set,” Rapacz said. “I give credit to the setters and passers for distributing the offense really well. When [Sandra] sees a strength she goes for it. I’m just happy I was able to execute my part.”

After the slow start, Temple finished the second set 25-13 and the third 25-16. Ganesharatnam rotated nine different players in the win, including freshman middle blocker Carla Guennewig.

“Carla got into the rotation, she rotated in against Houston as well.” Ganesharatnam said. “She’s been practicing really well. She has been showing us that she can do things that help us out on the court.”

Serving and defense helped the team overcome its first-set deficit. In the second and third sets the Owls had three aces and five blocks. Temple increased its number of digs in each set.

“I think our serving was really strong, and it got stronger as the match went on as we gained confidence,” Sydlik said. “Also our defense adjusted. [Central Florida] has really good hitters, so I’m glad we were able to stop them.”

With play in The American ending for the Owls Nov. 27 at East Carolina, the team is aware that it will be tough to make up ground on conference leader Southern Methodist.

“Obviously we want to win every game, but it’s going to be hard to catch up to [Southern Methodist] you can do the math for that,” Sydlik said. “But we want to establish [ourselves] as the second place team by having a gap to the third place team.”

Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at kevin.schaeffer@temple.edu.

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