After a 50-minute delay at the beginning of the match to wait for the line judges to arrive, Temple rallied to comeback and defeat Central Florida in five sets.
Temple (20-7, 13-4 American Athletic Conference) continued its dominance on the road this season. Temple has won 10 straight road matches this season and 12 straight dating back to Nov. 8, 2015.
This was the second matchup between the Owls and the Knights. Central Florida won in October. Both matches went to five sets, with the winning team winning the fifth set 15-13.
With the win Friday night, Temple remains within two games of Cincinnati and Southern Methodist at the top of the standings in the American Athletic Conference. The win also gave Temple distance from fourth place. The Owls now have a two-game advantage over Central Florida.
“We knew this game had a bigger magnitude for our season,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “With so few games left we really emphasized playing our style to get the win.”
Both teams went on scoring runs in the fifth set to keep the match within three points, forcing each team to use timeouts to try to stop the runs. The match ended with a kill from junior outside hitter Irem Asci, who kept the ball just inside the line.
“Our consistency was much better, earlier in the year we had a lot of unforced errors that cost us in a close match,” Ganesharatnam said. “Friday we kept those errors to a minimum and played much more consistent.”
Temple won the first set 25-22 before dropping the next two sets 25-21 to fall behind 2-1 in the match. Knights’ freshman middle blocker Jeanne Westney caused problems for the Owls’ offense. She finished the match with nine of the team’s 21 blocks.
“Central Florida is a really good blocking team,” Ganesharatnam said. “We had to control what we could offensively to work against Central Florida’s block.”
The fourth set was tied at 20 before Temple finished the next four points and eventually won the set 25-22. Asci and junior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz combined for eight kills in the fourth set. Asci finished with a double-double with 21 kills and 14 digs.
Both Temple and Central Florida had multiple players with double digit assists. Junior setter Kyra Coundourides finished with 44 assists and 12 digs. Sophomore setter Hannah Vandegrift added 11 assists and six digs.
The next game for the Owls is Sunday afternoon against South Florida, which handed Temple its first conference loss of the season in straight sets.
“South Florida is a really good hitting team,” Ganesharatnam said. “We’re just going to stay in our system and hopefully come out with a different result.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.