Temple didn’t have its strongest performance of the season Friday night, but still managed to knock off Houston, 3-1, by scores of 23-25, 25-23, 25-16 and 25-14 to finish the regular season 24-8 overall and 15-5 in the American Athletic Conference.
The Owls would hit just .087 and totaled 17 errors in the first two sets. On Wednesday, Temple committed seven errors and hit .422 in a three-set victory against Tulane.
While his team could have played a better match to wrap up the regular season, coach Bakeer Ganes was happy with the resiliency the Owls displayed to get a spilt of the first two sets.
“It took a team effort,” Ganes said.
Sets three and four were much more routine for Temple. The Owls would hit .303 in the 3rd set, .382 in the fourth and committed a combined seven errors in both sets.
Additionally, in all three sets Temple would win, the Owls would hold Houston to hitting percentages of .023, .034 and .050 respectively.
After leading the team in kills on Wednesday night, freshman outside hitter Dara Peric again topped the board with 15 kills and also contributed eight digs, while junior libero Alyssa Drachslin led the team with 18 digs. Peric believed that the slow start was attributed to some nervous tensions and said the team improved its serving in the third and fourth sets.
“We were really emotional about the seniors and maybe that’s why we came out stiff,” Peric said. “I think attacking-wise we were really good [in sets No. 3 and No. 4].”
It was an emotional night for senior middle blocker Jennifer Iacobini, who played her final match at home and went out with a team-leading hitting percentage of .429 and 11 kills.
For Iacobini, the change in the third and fourth sets was all about a more focused effort.
“I think we just did what we needed to do and stopped focusing on what they were doing,” Iacobini said.
While fellow seniors Alex Schmitt and Tiffany Connatser did not see the floor on Friday night, Ganes said the presence of all three seniors will be missed and all played a vital role in turning the program around as the team won just eight matches in Ganes’ first season as coach in 2011.
“It was a long process,” Ganes said of the evolution of the program. “It didn’t just happen overnight.”
The Owls finished tied for second in The American as Southern Methodist also ended the regular season with a 15-5 conference mark. After being picked to finish ninth in The American’s preseason coaches’ poll, a second-place finish was a welcome result.
“I’m very proud for the players,” Ganes said. “We certainly were determined. We started working right away when we got here from the first day on. They did their homework during the summer.”
Temple will now wait to see if its regular season will qualify the team for the NCAA Tournament on a selection show Sunday night at 8:30 on ESPNU.
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @g_frank6.