It took a comeback effort against NJIT (1-4) for the Owls to gain their fifth straight win.
The team proved once again that they can close out games as the Owls toughed out a five-set, back and forth win at NJIT on Wednesday.
“We had a really hard time today and just never got into our rhythm, even though we won that first set, we just didn’t look sharp” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “If we would have won the second set it would have been a much easier match. We just had a tough time overall. I have to give NJIT a lot of credit. They got stronger and stronger as the match went on. But overall it was more of what we didn’t do.”
American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Gabriella Matautia led Temple with 15 kills and 11 digs, her fourth double-double already in the young campaign. Freshman Halle McCullough was on the court for the first time in her collegiate career, knocking down seven kills while tallying only a single error for a hitting percentage of .400.
The second set was the tightest as the teams tied 22 different times. The Owls staved off one set point with a kill from Matautia, but NJIT’s Fran Edmondson set up another set point with a kill, followed by a block for NJIT to end the set.
The Owls played a sloppy third set and all of a sudden they were down 2 sets to 1 with their work cut out for them if they wanted to take this match. The Owls, with their backs against the wall, responded in a huge way.
Temple won the fourth 25-18, finishing it off with a service ace from freshman Caroline Grattan.
The shortened fifth set was an intense one with nine ties and seven lead changes. NJIT’s Danica Vukotic set her team up for match point with a kill, but her twin sister Nina recorded an attack error to even the score back up at 14-14. Temple junior Alex Schmitt then knocked down a kill to give the Owls’ match point, and another NJIT error ended the match in Temple’s favor.
“It says a lot to win when you’re not at your best,” said Ganes. “You’re going to have these matches where you’re not going to perform well. It’s good that we were still able to come away with the victory. I give our team credit, we never gave up. Everybody on the court tried their hardest and we used a lot of players tonight. They all tried hard and they all fought. It was a good character test.”
The Owls play again this weekend at the Penn Invitational at the Palestra. They face Weber State on Saturday at 6 p.m. and then play La Salle and Penn on Sunday.
Rich Fogel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @RBFogel26.