Volleyball sweeps La Salle, earns playoff spot

Owls beat La Salle in three sets to secure fifth seed in A-10 playoffs.

Three sets was all the Owls (18-0, 8-6 in the Atlantic 10 Conference) needed to dispose of La Salle for the third time this season and send themselves to the A-10 Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Temple faced a must-win against the Explorers. If they lost they would have needed Butler and Rhode Island to lose.

Instead, on Senior Night, the team locked themselves into the fifth seed where they will likely take on fourth-seeded Duquesne in the opening round of the tournament.

“It was great,” senior libero Chelsea Tupuola said. “Going out we all knew this was a do or die kind of game. It was definitely a huge goal for us that we had to come out and come out with fire.

“Even though it wasn’t our best, or cleanest game, we did what we had to do,” junior outside hitter Gabriella Matautia said.

Before the match the team honored their seniors, including outside hitters Jingyu Zhang and Caitlin McMillen and Tupuola. Tupuola finished the night with a match high 19 digs.

“It was awesome because I actually had a lot of my immediate family here,” Tupuola said. “It was overwhelming at first.”

“I was definitely crying all day today,” Tupuola added. “It was great sharing the night with [Zhang and McMillen].”

The Owls took the first set 25-16 after pulling away near the end. La Salle led early in the second set before Temple was able to tie it up. The teams traded points before the home team squeaked by 25-23.

Temple took control early in the final set and never looked back, cruising to a 25-14 victory as the crowd erupted.

“Tonight’s game was not an easy match,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “For the first time in the season we actually had more to lose than we did to gain. That’s actually not an easy position to be in if you’re not used to it.”

Junior outside hitter Elyse Burkert led the match with 16 kills and added 12 digs for another double-double. Matautia followed suit, with 12 kills and 11 digs of her own.

Temple awaits Duquesne in the opening round of the A-10 Tournament. They lost to the Dukes earlier in the year, so the team knows they are the underdog once again.

Jake Adams can be reached at jacob.adams@temple.edu or on Twitter @jakeadams520.

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