The Owls took care of business against Big 5 rival La Salle, thanks to 26 combined kills by junior outside hitters Gabriella Matautia and Elyse Burkert.
Temple needed three sets to finish off the Explorers, improving to 2-0 against them on the season and 47-1 all time. The team also improved to 4-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference, staying right behind Dayton (4-0).
“It’s not easy to play against La Salle,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “If you look at our schedule they’re probably the only team left where we’re not the clear underdog, so it’s always tough to play against a team like that.”
The Owls struggled out the gate, falling behind 10-5 in the opening set thanks in large part to missed attacking opportunities. After an 8-2 run put them up 13-12 the teams battled back and forth until the closing points when La Salle made several critical unforced errors to hand Temple the first set, 25-23.
“La Salle, even though they’re struggling to get some wins in the A-10, they’re actually doing a good job playing pretty smart,” Ganes said. “On the other hand we didn’t do a very good job performing to the best ability we could either.”
Temple picked up the pace a bit in the second set, hitting at a .225 clip, compared to -.079 in the first. But they still struggled to take command of the set, falling behind 4-2 before climbing back to take the lead. The Owls largest lead was at 22-18 before they closed out with three straight points thanks to more unforced La Salle errors to win 25-20.
Temple found similar success in the final set, but jumped out to a 6-3 lead early. The Explorers only held the lead once in the set, at 2-1 off a service ace, but Temple quickly recovered and never looked back. They finished off the Explorers 25-19, completing their second sweep against their rival this season.
The loss dropped La Salle to 0-5 in the A-10 and 3-17 overall.
Ganes said it was possible the team wasn’t quite ready for their first away match since the middle of September, when the team travelled to the Miami (OH) Invitational.
“We talked about it,” Ganes said. “I think we really got comfortable being at home, especially after being on the road for such a long time.”
“We didn’t really have the support we had at home,” he added. “So I think that might have played a little bit of a role today as well.”
Overall, it wasn’t the strongest performance by the Owls this season. The offense hit at a .150 clip while the defense held La Salle to .130 on the night. Burkert was the only Owl to record a double-double, taking on 15 digs with her 11 kills. Senior libero Chelsea Tupuola had a match-leading 19 digs and three aces.
“Sometimes it’s not easy to play at the highest level over and over throughout a season,” Ganes said. “You’re going to have some highs and you’re going to have some lows.”
“Even though we had some difficulty executing the way we wanted I think, overall, it was still a good performance,” Ganes added. “We could have easily lost a set, even a couple sets, to La Salle.”
The Owls don’t play the rest of the weekend, but return to action next weekend when they travel to face Duquesne (4-1 in the A-10) on Friday before squaring off against George Washington (3-2 in the A-10) on Sunday in two tough conference matchups.
Jake Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jakeadams520.