Volleyball exposes Mustangs’ defense in four-set win

The Owls hit better than 25 percent in the final two sets of their 3-1 win against Southern Methodist on Sunday at McGonigle Hall.

Redshirt-freshman outside hitter Dana Westfield spikes the ball in Temple’s 3-1 win against Tulsa on Friday at McGonigle Hall. | MICHAEL NGUYEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After senior setter Kyra Coundourides scored a service ace for the first points of the match against Southern Methodist, Temple’s game plan was clear: attack the middle.

Following the ace, senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz sent two kills directly to the center of the Mustangs defense. Redshirt-freshman outside hitter Dana Westfield followed suit by directing her own cut shot to the middle of Southern Methodist’s floor. The Mustangs front and back row collided in a failed attempt to dig the kill before the ball hit the hardwood.

“We exposed some errors on the court on [Southern Methodist’s] defense and we really wanted to attack those areas,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “One of those areas was the donut area, which is what we call the middle of the floor.”

Temple (12-6, 8-2 American Athletic Conference) beat Southern Methodist on Sunday in four sets at McGonigle Hall. The Owls’ efficient offense played a key factor in the win.

Temple was able to attack the middle of the court with success, especially early in the match.

The Owls hit 43.2 percent and won 26-24 in the first set. Temple continued to attack the middle in the second set and scored its first two points on kills from Rapacz and freshman outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou that were swung toward the ‘donut’ area. Southern Methodist, however, made defensive adjustments to prevent attacks to the hole.

The Mustangs recorded four blocks and forced eight Temple attack errors in the second set. In the first set, Southern Methodist only had two blocks and three forced Temple attack errors.

After an accurate hitting performance in the opening set, Temple hit just 15.1 percent in the second set. The Owls lost the set 25-23.

“Playing volleyball is like playing chess,” Ganesharatnam said. “When you make a move, the opposing team has to react with a counter-move. That opens up other areas of the court, so we have to react to that”

In the final two sets, Temple stopped focusing on trying to find holes in the middle of the court and started to attack the sidelines.

Westfield, who had 17 kills and hit 37.1 percent, said when Temple realized Southern Methodist “started shifting,” the Owls “went back to [attacking] other spots.” As a result, Temple was able to raise its hitting percentage more than 25 percent for the rest of the match.

The Owls hit 28.2 percent in the third set and 39.3 percent in the fourth.

Rapacz led Temple offensively with a match-high 19 kills. She also recorded 11 digs and added eight blocks against the Mustangs.

With the win against Southern Methodist, Temple is now in second place in The American standings. The Owls will look to add on to their five-game winning streak on Friday against Houston at 7 p.m.

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