In front of a crowd of 328 fans, the volleyball team opened its eight-game home stand with a 3-0 sweep in their home opener against New Jersey Institute of Technology Wednesday.
Temple is now 7-4 on the season, its best start since 2002.
The Owls first set in McGonigle Hall this season began with a back and forth battle with nine ties and two lead changes. But the squad was able to storm ahead at the end with a 25-20 victory.
“We kind of got into the habit of trading points with them,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “At the end we really were able to focus a little bit more on serve-receive and really stabilized our offensive game a little bit more.”
The same second set was much the same story, as the teams tied seven times and traded the lead four times. The main difference was the Highlanders led most of the game. The Owls, however, were able to escape at the end once again, winning 25-19.
The two late rallies seemed to cause some problems for NJIT at the start of the third set. Temple led by nearly ten points halfway through the match.
“Overall we did a really good job today serving,” Ganes said. “We really attacked them with our serves. NJIT was a little bit deflated I think”
The Highlanders didn’t surrender, however, and were able to climb back to within two points. The Owls again were able to shut the door, though, pulling away at the end for a 25-21 victory to finish the sweep.
The focus for the Owls on offense most of the night was attack a weak spot in the middle of the Highlanders’ defense. Temple routinely rolled their attacks just over the middle blocks into the center of the court between all the defenders, in the zone called the campfire or donut.
Ganes said that they used the tactic because they noticed in game film before the game that NJIT placed their libero, senior Renata Pandolfo, at middle back rather than on the left side of the back court, which is more typical of most defenses.
“On the other hand, because she doesn’t play left side, it opens up that donut area and that’s what we were trying to go after,” Ganes said.
On the night the Owls hit at a .225 clip, while holding NJIT to .169. Junior outside hitters Elyse Burkert and Gabriella Matautia led the squad with 12 kills each, and Burkert made it a double-double with 19 digs.
Sophomore setter Tiffany Connatser led the match with another stellar performance, dishing out 41 assists while nearly gathering her own double-double with nine digs. The team also recorded seven aces, with three coming from sophomore outside hitter Jennifer Iacobini.
The Owls have one day off before hosting the Temple Invitational against Central Connecticut, Navy and Cornell. Temple opens the tournament with a first round match against Central Connecticut Friday afternoon before taking on Navy later that night and Cornell on Saturday.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com.