Volleyball comes up short in fourth set against Fordham, as the Owls lose 3-1.
The Owls’ volleyball team struggled to find its outside hitters open at the net, as the Rams set a new school and Atlantic Ten Conference season match high with 21 blocks in their four-set victory.
After the Rams (5-10, 2-1 A-10) took the first two sets 25-23, 25-21, and the Owls claimed the third set 25-18, the Cherry and White found itself in a fourth set battle. However, Temple (5-12, 1-3 A-10) allowed Fordham to rally in the final set, as the Rams won 25-23.
The Owls entered the match after defeating Rhode Island the day before in straight sets. But freshman setter Tiffany Connatser said the team came out flat against Fordham.
“I think we definitely didn’t come out as strong as we did last [Friday] when we beat Rhode Island,” Connatser said. “But I mean, I know everyone was giving it their all, but maybe weren’t just 100 percent as focused as we should have been.”
Fordham currently ranks atop the A-10 in blocks by averaging 3.55 per set. Coach Bakeer Ganes said that he doesn’t expect his squad, which is ranked seventh in blocks (1.69 blocks per set), to out-block its opponents.
“We knew that going in that it’s going to be a mismatch,” Ganes said. “But at the same time, I didn’t expect them to have 21 blocks that’s really good. Even though we had 14, we still can’t afford to give anybody else 21 blocks, that’s out of this world.”
A trio of opposing middle hitters created a challenge for the Owls’ hitters throughout the game.
Fordham’s junior middle hitter Randi Ewing, the daughter of National Basketball Association All-Star Patrick Ewing, led the blocking game for the Rams with two solo and eight assisted blocks, while sophomore middle hitters Krissy Buongiorno and Carina Thompson combined for 17 assisted blocks.
Ewing, who averages the highest block percentage in the A-10, Thompson, and Buongiorno consistently lead the Rams in blocking. Ewing and Buongiorno, the team’s two middle blockers have accounted for a total of 20 solo blocks combined on the year.
“We know everybody we’re going to play is going to have more blocks than we do just because of the height difference,” Ganes said. “So we have to find a way to kind of reorganize our offense so we get more opportunities to be one-on-one when we attack the ball.”
Sophomore outside hitter Gabriella Matautia had the most success among the Owls’ hitters in the game posting 17 kills on a .152 hitting percentage, while adding 11 digs. Senior outside hitter Collin Wallace also had 17 kills with a .120 hitting percentage and tied for a game high 15 digs.
Ganes said the Owls tried to carry momentum from their third set win, which cut the Rams’s advantage to 2-1, but they lost focus in the fourth set. Temple led 15-11 in the fourth set, but the Rams came back to close out the game.
“We gave them a run of 10 points, which brought us back to 15-21,” Ganes said. “So that’s something we just can’t do, no matter who we play, we can’t allow to give anybody a run like that.”
The fourth set contained nine tie scores between the teams, but when the Owls found themselves down 21-15, Ganes said he told his team in a timeout that they had to focus on the next point.
“At that moment we really didn’t have anything to lose,” Ganes said. “I think I had used all of my timeouts, tried different set plays, so I think we just went for it.”
The Cherry and White scored several unanswered points to tie the score at 21. Senior setter Liz Prang entered the game to serve before the rally and she delivered with an ace and two digs.
“We did not want to give up, we’re not the same team we were last year,” Wallace said. “We just came back and we had some great serves from [Prang] and we had a couple good kills and then it just didn’t work out in the end.”
The Rams scored the final points with a kill and then a block against the Owls’ after the score was tied at 23.
“In that last set I thought we were really focused, except for that one lapse of 10 points for the other team,” Connatser said. “We definitely lost our focus in passing and hitting and basically every aspect.”
Connatser completed a game high 44 assists in the match, while the rest of the team combined for four assists.
The next game for the Owls is away against La Salle at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
“We’re definitely winning the next game,” Connatser said. “We’re bringing it next game and everybody is going to be ready and it’s going to be intense.”
Connor Showalter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.