Coach Bakeer Ganes and the Owls were able to notch their first win of the season by defeating Niagara University Saturday a five-set thriller at the University at Buffalo Invite.
Temple won its first two sets by scores of 25-11 and 25-14 and looked to be well on their way to a 3-set blowout victory. In a hectic turn of events, Niagara fought back and won the next two sets, 25-20 and 25-22 to tie the match.
The Owls resurgence was led by Senior Gabriella Matautia, who had a monster game with 23.5 points and 21 kills. Even though Temple seemed to lose momentum, they rallied around each other in order to win the fifth and final set by a score of 17-15.
“We had some injuries that happened right before this tournament,” Ganes said. “Elyse Burkert pulled a calf muscle, so she played through it but what we wanted to do was take her out of the game. We were up 2-0 and changed the lineup and that’s basically the time period when Niagara got much stronger. In the fifth, we put Elyse back in and we really settled things down and we basically played with our starting lineup in the fifth and that helped us.”
Sophomores Sandra Sydlik, Kayla Yingling and Alyssa Drachslin are proving to be some nice assets to the team and really stepped up to the plate in Saturday’s matchup against Niagara. Sydlik, who earned All-Tournament Team honors alongside Matautia, accumulated a game-high 40 assists and also added 13 digs. Drachslin, who has filled the team’s libero position nicely, had 4 assists and 8 digs. University of Buffalo transfer Kayla Yingling chipped in with 3 digs and 1 assist for the Owls. With only three seniors on the team, the Owls will depend on the younger players on the roster this season.
“I’m very excited, actually working with all of these girls because I think we have a team full of really—a lot of potential,” Ganes said. “We are very excited to work with them. We had eight newcomers this year. We knew it was going to be tough but the longer the season goes, the better it is going to get for us.”
It is still very early in the season. That said, Sydlik, who is from Berlin, Germany, feels comfortable around her teammates despite being away from her homeland.
“We do a lot of team building stuff,” Sydlik said. “They are really nice and it doesn’t seem like they are new anymore.”
Temple’s next matchup is against Radford University in Fairfax, Va. at 5 p.m. on Friday.