Volleyball team in battle for second in AAC

After losing in three sets to Wichita State on Sunday in Kansas, the Owls have to fight for second in the American Athletic Conference with Southern Methodist.

Senior setter Kyra Coundourides attempts to make a dig during the Owls’ 3-1 loss to East Carolina on Oct. 6 at McGonigle Hall. | MIKE NGUYEN / FILE PHOTO

Temple traveled to Wichita State for the first time in program history on Sunday.

Just like in its match at McGonigle Hall on Sept. 22 against the Shockers, most sets were decided by close margins. Sunday’s first set was decided by three points. The third set was decided by two.

Temple (10-4, 14-8 American Athletic Conference) lost both of those sets and the second frame in its three-set loss to Wichita State, which is ranked No. 20 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. The Owls suffered their first sweep in conference play.

Throughout the match, Temple struggled with Wichita State’s serve.

A service ace from sophomore outside hitter Alex Koon won the second set for Wichita State, 25-16. Temple made four reception errors.

“I thought we really struggled with our serve receive,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “Because of that, we were not able to spread out our offense as much as we wanted.”

Wichita State scored at least one service ace in each set. Temple’s back row struggled to get under several shots.

Freshman defensive specialist Averi Salvador and junior libero Mia Heirakuji had just six digs each. They both played in all three sets. Heirakuji averages 4.03 digs per set this season.

The Owls allowed four aces and 47 kills, the most they’ve allowed in a three-set match.

There were 12 ties and two lead changes in the opening set. A kill from freshman outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou gave Temple an early 4-3 lead. Wichita State then scored five points in a row to take a four-point lead.

A similar sequence happened later to help Wichita State win the first set. The set was tied at 21 when the Shockers scored three in a row to gain set point. Papazoglou had a kill to end the Owls’ scoring drought, but they couldn’t recover from the deficit. A kill from Wichita State junior outside hitter Tabitha Brown ended the set, 25-22.

Wichita State’s largest lead in the third set was by four points. The Shockers had two aces served toward Heirakuji and won the set, 25-23.

Temple is now two games behind second-place Southern Methodist (18-7, 12-2 The American) in the conference standings. The Owls travel to Dallas next week to play the Mustangs on Thursday.

“We still have a good chance to finish second in the conference,” Ganesharatnam said. “We’re basically competing with [Southern Methodist] now for that second spot. So I think the next weekend will be really big for us. If we do well, I think we’re still in good position to finish second. I’m optimistic and I feel that the players are very optimistic as well.”

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