Before Sunday’s match, junior setter Hannah Vandegrift hadn’t played in more than a month.
In her last match, Temple’s five-set win against Central Florida on Oct. 15, Vandegrift played 14 of 41 points in the first set, finishing with three assists and three digs.
She played a much bigger role on Sunday at McGonigle Hall, helping Temple (17-9, 13-5 American Athletic Conference) cruise to a four-set win against South Florida (12-16, 7-11) and bounce back from Friday’s home loss to Central Florida.
Vandegrift finished with 39 assists to tie her career-high on Sept. 15 against Villanova and push her total to 145 on the year.
Vandegrift and senior setter Kyra Coundourides combined for 60 assists against South Florida. Temple finished with 66 assists, just one shy of its season-high on Sept. 22 against Wichita State. Coundourides had a season-high 59 assists against the Shockers.
Because of the reliability of Coundourides, who tallied her 3,000th career assist on Friday, Vandegrift usually comes off the bench when she plays. Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam made a last-minute decision on Sunday to insert her into the starting lineup for the second time in 2017.
“She really didn’t know she was gonna play until 30 minutes before the game,” Ganesharatnam said. “She has been practicing really well. We thought she deserved a shot this week.”
“Her setups have improved so much,” said senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz, who had a match-high 16 kills. “I’m so happy she was able to play today.”
In 10 matches, Vandegrift averages 5.58 assists per set and has surpassed her 2016 assist total of 102.
The Owls have been knocked out of contention for the American Athletic Conference title, but they have not lost a winning attitude. Temple has won three of its last four games and is in third place in The American behind first-place Wichita State and second-place Southern Methodist.
The Owls will finish the season with a home-and-home series against UConn starting on Wednesday at McGonigle Hall at 1 p.m. The Huskies (11-19, 4-14 The American) have only won one of their last 10 games.
“I think us executing when we’re down is what’s most important to finish games,” Vandegrift said.