Volleyball sweeps conference teams on Florida road trip

The Owls’ wins against South Florida and Central Florida moved them to fourth place in the American Athletic Conference standings.

Senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz attempts to spike the ball during the Owls’ 3-1 loss against East Carolina on Friday at McGonigle Hall. | MIKE NGUYEN / FILE PHOTO

Temple traveled to Florida to compete in two American Athletic Conference matches over the weekend. The Owls played South Florida on Friday and Central Florida on Sunday.

Temple (10-6, 6-2 American Athletic Conference) won both matches, but the path to victory was different for each match.

“I thought we did a good job starting out the match asserting our defense and not letting [South Florida] establish themselves right away,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “Our execution was great all the way around against South Florida. Against Central Florida, our execution was not really good but we were able to make plays when it mattered.”

Though Temple won in three sets against the Bulls, the match in Orlando against Central Florida went on for five sets.

The Owls struggled at the beginning of the match, scoring just 16 points in the first set and 20 points in the second set. After falling two sets to none and facing a potential sweep, Temple focused on executing fundamentals after the break, Ganesharatnam said.

“We made some changes to our lineup and the system we played, but we also really focused on executing the basics.” Ganesharatnam said. “We made sure we tracked the serve receive to get some good first touches and kept communicating at the net so we could set up a solid block.”

Temple’s comeback was topped off by a 7-1 run that won the final set. The Owls were trailing the Knights 12-8 in the fifth set when Ganesharatnam called a timeout.

Two kills from redshirt-freshman outside hitter Dana Westfield out of the timeout brought Temple within two. The Owls then forced three straight attack errors on Central Florida, which gave Temple a 13-12 lead. An attack error from senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz tied the set up again at 13. Rapacz then went on to score two consecutive kills to win the set and match.

Rapacz led all scorers with 27 points, hitting 53.7 percent and earning a match high 25 kills. Rapacz also added two blocks and six digs against Central Florida.

Temple ended with 72 digs while Central Florida had 69 digs. Four Owls reached double figures in digs against the Knights.

Junior libero Mia Heirakuji led the team with 17 digs, while senior setter Kyra Coundourides contributed 16 digs. Senior outside hitter Dara Peric had 11 digs, and Freshman defensive specialist Averi Salvador had 10 digs.

The Owls swept the Bulls on Friday’s match. Temple forced South Florida to hit 18.6 percent for the match and held the Bulls to just 34 kills. Other than having strong defense from the start of the match, Temple also planned on being aggressive on the serve, Ganesharatnam said.

The Owls had seven service errors but also four service aces against the Bulls. Salvador led Temple with two aces, both of which came in the first set.

The two wins put Temple in fourth place in The American conference standings.

The Owls will face Tulsa on Friday at 7 p.m. at McGonigle Hall.

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