Volleyball earns first conference win in sweep against Memphis

The Owls had a season-high 64 digs on Sunday in their win against the Tigers at McGonigle Hall.

Senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz (center) celebrates a point with her teammates in the Owls' loss to Wichita State on Sept. 22. | MIKE NGUYEN / TTN FILE PHOTO

Temple (5-5, 1-1 American Athletic Conference) never let Memphis settle into a rhythm at McGonigle Hall on Sunday afternoon.

The Owls claimed their first victory in The American in a 3-0 sweep against the Tigers to end the weekend with a 1-1 record.

Last year, both of Temple’s matches against Memphis were decided in five sets. But in the first meeting this season, Temple won two sets by nine points or more.

The Owls forced 23 attack errors by Memphis, which led to the Tigers hitting just negative 1.8 percent. Now that Temple is two games into conference play, coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said the team is settling into a defensive identity.

“Blocking is a very intricate skill,” he said. “Timing, athleticism and instinct all have to come together. We have really good athletes on the team and players with high volleyball IQs. On top of that, we have really good defenders in Dara [Peric], Irem [Asci], Mia [Heirakuji] and Averi [Salvador]. So if you combine those aspects, I think we have a good structure to put together team defense.”

In all of Temple’s wins, the team has recorded at least 10 total blocks. Against Memphis, the Owls had six players contribute in blocking.

Senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz contributed to six total blocks, while junior middle blocker Iva Deak added five total blocks in the win.

Senior middle blocker Janine Simmons and junior middle blocker Carla Guennewig also helped defend at the net. Both players contributed to three blocks each. Redshirt-freshman outside hitter Dana Westfield assisted two blocks, and senior outside hitter Irem Asci assisted on one block.

“I think the team’s defense was awesome,” Deak said. “Blocking was really well, and we adjusted much faster to this game than the last game. I think this game was a bigger challenge for us than the Wichita State game because we didn’t know what to expect with Memphis.”

“Our first touches, serve receive and defense was really good today,” Ganesharatnam said.

Temple ended with a season-high 64 digs. Junior libero Mia Heirakuji had a game-high 18 digs against the Tigers. Two other Temple players also reached double figures in digs. Senior setter Kyra Coundourides contributed 17 digs, while Asci finished the match with 13 digs.

Asci also had 11 kills in the victory to finish with a double-double. Rapacz added to the kill total with 10 while hitting 35 percent.

The Owls will head on the road to continue conference play for two consecutive matches. Temple will play Tulane in New Orleans on Friday at 8 p.m. and face Houston on Sunday at 2 p.m.

“Getting wins in the conference is always tough,” Ganesharatnam said. “So moving forward, we want to make sure we put the work in for every practice session and be honest to ourselves so we can get the desired output for the match.”

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