Temple swept Connecticut on Friday night, 25-12, 25-21, 27-25, in the Owls’ homecoming game at McGonigle Hall.
The Owls started the first set leading 6-5. Then, behind the serving of freshman Caroline Grattan, they won eight straight points and never looked back to take the set 25-12.
“The execution was really good,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “I thought we passed the ball really well, and that really helped us execute on offense, because we were able to run the offense we wanted to. Most of the time we had multiple options, [and] that really helped us. The first set was really good. I’ve got to give my team a lot of credit. It was very good.”
The second set was tighter, although once again Temple never trailed. UConn came close, serving with the Owls up only 18-17 – but Temple won the point and cruised the rest of the way to a 25-21 victory.
“You can’t expect to dominate anybody, especially in this conference, the way we did in the first set,” Ganes said. “It’s going to be really tough to play against anybody and keep up that pace. I thought we did a pretty good job in the second set.”
The Owls ran into trouble in the third, as the Huskies took a 17-11 lead, and Temple looked out of sync. However, Ganes called a timeout to rejuvenate the team, and Temple stormed back to tie the game at 23. Temple then pulled ahead, but UConn continued to fight. The Huskies the game to extra points, until sophomore Alyssa Drachslin scored the final kill for the Owls, with senior Gabriella Matautia serving.
Ganes still found plenty of good in the third set, although he said the team did make some execution errors.
“I think [there were a] couple of good signs,” Ganes said. “We were down in the third set. We made some mistakes at the beginning on the execution, on the offense. And UConn made some plays. You know, you’ve got to give UConn some credit, too. They came out and made some plays that really helped them. So we were down early, but we knew we could still come back. The team really did a good job not giving up, still staying in the game. And once the chance presented itself, they really took advantage of that.”
Matautia, who led the team with 17 points, also gave credit to UConn in the final set.
“I think that UConn definitely picked it up, and we started to get a little shaky,” Matautai said. “UConn’s a good team. They’re definitely a good team to play against, and we were excited coming in knowing it was going to be a good game.”
Senior Elyse Burkert served the team to four straight points to take the lead in the final set. Burkert said the team was very focused at the end of the game.
“[We were] just really focused, just really determined to get the next point,” Burkert said. “Having the crowd be so loud was awesome. It makes the environment so much better, and a lot harder for the other team to play.”
Drachslin, the starting libero for the Owls, also had a solid game. She recorded a career-high 28 digs, just a week after getting 27 in a four-set match against the Houston Cougars.
“I think Alyssa’s performance today was probably one of the best ones she had in a while, not just because of the numbers,” Ganes said. “She did a good job communicating. She did a good job taking charge of the back row and controlling the pace. So I thought overall this was a really strong performance from Alyssa.”
Matautia said the Owls were happy with the conference win, and with their overall record.
“We’re very happy,” Matautia So far, we’re just kind of taking it one game at a time, and of course it’s great that we’re sticking to winning. Our conference play, we just want to do the best we can, and just prove ourselves.”
Temple’s next game will be against conference opponent Rutgers at McGonigle Hall on Sunday at 1 p.m.
Don McDermott can be reached at email@example.com.