In the final match of the season on Saturday afternoon, Temple University volleyball (12-15, 3-13 The American Athletic Conference) overcame a two sets to none deficit to beat South Florida.
The Owls struggled from the outset, losing the first two sets 25-18 and 15-23, and committing a combined 14 errors to the Bulls’ eight.
“I felt like in the first two sets we were just very very sloppy in our execution,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “ It was just about cleaning things up on our side. Even in the third set we still were not very clean in our execution, but at least we kept working and got better and better.”
Temple rallied to win the next three sets, including the decisive fifth set 15-11.
The team honored its only senior, outside hitter Dana Westfield, who rose to the occasion and scored a career-high 21 kills on a .429 percentage.
“It’s bittersweet,” Westfield said. “I’m glad I was able to end on a good note. This is my last time playing actual competitive volleyball. I’ve spent so long, basically ten years doing this. I kind of wish I had someone else to share it with, but my team was here, they had my back and I had there’s. It was a good note to end on.”
While she may have preferred to have someone to share the experience with, the Illinois native enjoyed being the center of attention.
“I think that was definitely a big thing that pushed us towards the end of the game,” Westfield said. “It was really special going in and seeing everybody in the locker room waiting just for me, to celebrate this day just for me, kind of like a little birthday celebration.”
Putting Westfield in a position where she could be aggressive was an emphasis for Ganesharatnam.
“We really put her in a position where she could really excel from an attacking standpoint,” Ganehsaratnam said. “Defensively, we really worked on covering as a team so she had all the freedom she could have in order to be a really effective attacker.”
Westfield was matched by sophomore outside hitter Miray Bolukbasi who, coming off of a career-high 22 kills in a loss to Central Florida on Thursday, racked up 21 kills on a 23.3 hitting percentage.
Freshman outside hitter Jac St. Cin and sophomore outside hitter Lindsey Pliapol paced the Bulls with 16 kills each.
The Owls out blocked South Florida 16 to 10 with junior middle hitter Baliegh Jean-Philippe leading the way with 10.
After a season that included the best start in program history but ended with a disappointing conference campaign, Temple will look to build on this win heading into next season.
“I think it was really important that we battled back from the deficit and not let that define us,” Ganesharatnam said. “I think it speaks to the willpower of the team, and those are really positive things to build on and I think for this team they just need to experience some of these obstacles and just grow from it.”