Temple University carried a nine-game losing streak into Saturday, the second day of the Cherry and White Challenge. After losing to the University of Maryland on Friday, the team knew something had to change.
In their second game of the Cherry and White Challenge, the Owls snapped their losing streak with a 3-1 win over the University of New Hampshire.
A change in offensive strategy made all the difference. Instead of using a 6-2 setup, the team rearranged to a 5-1 with two setters, one in front and one in back, said coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam.
With the new formation, the Owls recorded 62 kills and a .257 hitting percentage, both their second highest of the season.
The team lost its first set to New Hampshire 25-22. However, senior defensive specialist Mia Heirakuji didn’t feel the need to worry.
“We didn’t play bad in the first set,” Heirakuji said. “Just a few minor details that we had to clean up.”
That showed in the second and third sets where the Owls took control.
“It took us a little to get comfortable and find our way into it,” Ganesharatnam said. “But once we were in a rhythm we were able to play pretty well.”
After dropping the first set the Owls wouldn’t falter again, winning the next three, 25-17, 25-16 and 25-22.
Strong team play helped the Owls secure a win, but individual performances from Iva Deak and Bailey Jean-Philippe were critical in the win on Saturday.
Deak, a Graduate student outside hitter, registered 13 kills and seven blocks. Alongside her, Jean-Philippe, a sophomore middle hitter, added seven kills and seven blocks.
“[The win has] taken some much stress off our shoulders,” Heirakuji said. “Knowing that we can play these teams and win, I think it will give us a confidence boost.”
“The team did a good job sticking with it and working through it,” Ganesharatnam said. “He hopes that this kind of play will show “some light at the end of the tunnel.”
Four and a half hours later, the Owls were back in action against Princeton University. The Owls again dropped the first set but countered and won the next three to win, 3-1, and gain their second straight win.
Not only did the Owls stick to their new offensive system, but Ganesharatnam used the first set to plan and adjust for the rest of the game.
“We wanted to control the ball,” Ganesharatnam said. “It’s like a chess match.”
The Owls won the final three sets against the Tigers, 28-26, 25-23, and 25-17.
A number of players stepped up when Princeton was pressing, most notably junior outside hitter Dana Westfield who had a team-high 18 kills.
“We were really talking a lot,” Westfield said. “I was just trying to take everything they were saying and hit into spots that they told me were open.”
The Owls finished the Cherry and White Challenge with a 2-1 record, now carrying a two-game win streak into conference play.
“We’re doing a lot of good things right now, and we will get there if we keep working, our main thing is staying consistent and carrying that into conference play,” Ganesharatnam said. “Winning is very hard and we’ve been spoiled because we’ve had so many good teams and now we’ve had to work harder to get wins, and we are starting to realize that and it’s not always been easy on us this year.”
The Owls play their first Conference game Friday, Sept. 21st at Houston.