After two weeks away from home, Temple played in front of a filled McGonigle Hall. The band was playing, the Diamond Gems were dancing and crowd of more than 500 people was loud.
Despite playing at home for the first time since Sept. 25, Temple couldn’t get fired up for the match, falling to South Florida in three sets Friday night.
The loss ends Temple’s five-game winning streak, which included four consecutive road wins.
“We just didn’t have the energy in the match that we should have,” junior outside hitter and libero Dara Peric said. “We should’ve came into this game stronger, and not taking anything for granted. The fire just wasn’t there for the first two sets.”
Temple (12-5, 5-2 American Athletic Conference) started the match going back and forth, point for point. The offensive efficiency for South Florida was too much for the Owls, as the Bulls finished the first set hitting 50 percent to win it 25-17.
South Florida also won the second set by an eight-point margin, hitting 39.3 percent. South Florida hit 12.2 percent in the third set, its lowest percentage in the match. The Bulls capitalized on the unforced errors by Temple, which ended the set with eight attack errors and three service errors.
“We just made a lot of unforced errors, starting with our serve receive,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “The timing for blocks was not ideal, and we didn’t serve tough enough.”
Ganesharatnam made wholesale changes to the Owls’ rotation in the third set. Peric moved from outside hitter to libero, and senior outside hitter Caroline Grattan and junior middle blocker Janine Simmons were focal points in the third set after not playing in the first two sets.
The third set was Temple’s best performance of the night, going up late before playing point for point until the end. Temple’s 16 kills in the third sets were the highest of the match. The Owls lost the third set 28-26 for their second conference loss of the season.
“We didn’t get our drive really going till that third set,” junior setter Kyra Coundourides said. “I give [South Florida] credit, they played well tonight and pounced on us.”
Junior outside hitter Irem Asci was the only Owl to break double digits in kills, accumulating 12 for the match along with eight attack errors. Senior outside hitter Tyler Davis also added nine kills in the match. Coundourides finished with 35 assists and tied with junior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz for the lead in digs with seven.
Temple looks to use the team’s practice Saturday to get them in the right mindset from the start of the match when it plays against Central Florida Sunday at 1 p.m. The game is Temple’s Dig Pink for Breast Cancer game, with proceeds benefiting the Side-Out Foundation’s research. There will be a donation bucket at the game and fans can make a donation on the team’s website.
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.