Temple (7-2, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) defeated Princeton (2-5, 0-0 Ivy League) in 5 sets, 25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 22-25 and 15-10, Wednesday night at McGonigle Hall.
Temple bounced back from its 3-0 loss to now-No. 13 Penn State Friday. The Owls won six games against non-conference opponents last season, and surpassed that total with the five-set victory.
The matchup was a battle at the net, as both offenses tried to control the pace on the front line. The Owls, who came into the game averaging just less than 44 kills, finished with a season-high 62 kills and added 7 blocks. The Tigers had 61 kills and 10 blocks of their own.
Temple ran away in the fifth set due to several unforced Princeton errors. Three of Temple’s last four points came as the result of Princeton’s mistakes: two attack errors and a bad set. Both teams struggled with minimizing errors, as Temple finished with 27 errors and Princeton with 24.
Officials delayed the game by 30 minutes after the lights in McGonigle Hall went out following the pregame announcements.
“This was a strange game,” said outside hitter Olivia Vance. “We had some weird things happen in the beginning with the lights, but we persevered and just kept grinding.”
Temple handled the Princeton offense in the first two sets. After Princeton tied set one at 23, Temple right-side hitter Avery Luoma, who transferred from Princeton this offseason, and outside hitter Jelena Prolic got back-to-back kills to clinch the 25-23 win. In set two, Temple, aided by four Princeton errors, made an 11-3 run to come from behind and win the set 25-23.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” Vance said. “I think we have a lot to learn from this game. Every day we’re trying to get better, and this was an opportunity to do that.”
In set three, the game took a turn in Princeton’s favor. The Owls and Tigers were going back and forth until the Tigers rattled off a 10-0 run, taking a 17-11 lead and forcing the Owls to take a timeout. A few points later, the Tigers went on another long run, winning seven straight points to take set three 25-14.
Set four was much closer, and neither team controlled play. Princeton was finally able to go on a 4-0 run before Temple went on a 5-1 run to cut Princeton’s lead to 22-21. Despite the Owls’ effort, the Tigers won three of the last four points to steal set four 25-22 and tie the game 2-2.
However, Temple took charge in set five.
“I was really proud of how we responded to [losing the third and fourth sets], and just kept our composure in the fifth set,” said Temple head coach Linda Hampton-Keith. “Just staying stable. The great thing before we get to conference play is we really get to focus on us.”
Temple kept Princeton at arms-reach to begin set five, then went on a 4-0 run to take a 14-9 lead. After a Princeton kill, Temple outside hitter Taylor Davenport slammed home her 15th kill of the night to give Temple the 15-10 win in set five and the 3-2 win in the match.
”I was really proud of our response,” said setter Ava Blascziek, who made her first career start Wednesday. “Dropping to the reverse sweep is a threat, and it’s a scary one. But, I think we went out there like we owned the place, because we do, and we went out there with confidence.”
The win marks one of Temple’s final games before beginning AAC play Sept. 20 against Tulsa at home. After a strong start to the season, the Owls feel confident heading into their new-look conference, which added six new schools this year.
“[The first conference game] is really going to be about us,” Vance said. “It’s about taking what we’ve done all preseason and using it, and starting showing off in conference, where it matters.”
Before Wednesday, the Owls will head to the main line and take on Saint Francis (5-4, 0-0 Northeast Conference) and Sacred Heart (1-7, 0-0 Northeast Conference) at the Villanova Classic Sept. 15 to 16.