Villanova ends volleyball’s three-match win streak

The Owls hit for their lowest percentage since Sept. 1 in their four-set loss on Friday at Jake Nevin Field House.

Then junior outside hitter Irem Asci serves the ball in the Owls’ straight sets win against Villanova on Sept. 16, 2016 at the Palestra. She had 19 kills in the Owls' loss to the Wildcats on Friday. | EVAN EASTERLING / TTN FILE PHOTO

Hannah Vandegrift hit the ground trying to reach for the ball that had been spiked down. The junior setter couldn’t make a clean dig, and the Owls’ chance for a comeback ended.

Villanova senior outside hitter Allie Loitz sent a powerful spike into the floor for the 25th point in the fourth set. The Wildcats beat Temple, 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20, on Friday night at Jake Nevin Field House to drop the Owls’ record to 4-4. Temple’s three-match winning streak came to an end.

“[Friday’s] game was a little tough because we specifically had to make some adjustments when it came to the blocking aspect of our game,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “Every set was going to be very tight. We knew that going in.”

Villanova led every statistical category except service aces and blocks.

The Owls fell behind two sets to none but fought back to win the third set 25-23. Temple got out to a 7-1 lead and led 11-4 before Villanova played its way back into the set.

Ganesharatnam made some adjustments on the defensive side of the ball going into the third set. After allowing the Wildcats to hit at higher than 30 percent efficiency for the first two sets, Temple’s defense forced Villanova to make 15 errors and hit less than 15 percent for the rest of the match.

“We had our right side blocker come onto their outside hitter and had our middle blocker take on their middle blocker,” Ganesharatnam said. “We changed from a perimeter defense to a rotational defense as well which allowed our right side defender to be in a better position.”

Despite improved defensive numbers, Temple’s offensive attack couldn’t take advantage. The Owls made 16 errors in the final two sets and hit 2.7 percent in the final frame.

Senior outside hitter Irem Asci led the squad with 19 kills and 23 points. Junior middle blocker Iva Deak finished behind her with 10 kills and 13 points.

Defensively, Temple made four blocking errors. Players would be at the net to get blocks, but when they got their hands on the ball, it would either deflect straight down or out of bounds.  

Ganesharatnam said the team dealt with some health issues on Friday. Senior setter Kyra Coundourides, who played all of the previous seven matches and leads the team in assists, didn’t play against Villanova. Vandegrift played all four sets in her place and contributed 39 assists.

The Owls’ next match is its conference opener on Friday at McGonigle Hall against Wichita State.

“First of all, we’re going to give the players a couple of days off, and the athletic trainer is going to work very hard to hopefully get all of them, if not all of them, healthy again,” Ganesharatnam said. “That is our number one priority, and once we get everyone on board and then we’ll focus on stuff like blocking and defense overall at practice.”

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