Volleyball tops Villanova on Day 2 of Big 5 tournament

Despite winning the opening set against soon-to-be Big East rival Villanova, the Owls dropped to 3-3 on the year after losing 3-2 in their second match of the Big 5 tournament.

Costly errors and some missed opportunities to make defensive stops ultimately cost the Owls despite a balanced offensive attack.

“Mentally we were both in those games, those two games we did win,” senior libero Chelsea Tupuola said. “As a team we came together. Those three that we lost, we sort of spread out. We were playing more as individuals than as a team, which you can’t do in volleyball at all.”

Temple won the first set 25-23 by outhitting the Wildcats .190 to .146. The next two sets were a completely different story, however. The Owls’ offense wasn’t as effective as the defense allowed the opposing attack to make critical plays in losses of 21-25 and 19-25.

Second-year coach Bakeer Ganes cited the team’s lack of height against Villanova as the main problem defensively. He believes the Wildcats were clearly the toughest matchup this weekend for his squad.

“Overall, for the team we played, the opponent we had, our defense actually did a very good job I thought,” Ganes said.

The fourth set found the Wildcats leading most of the way and about to secure the win. Junior outside hitter Elyse Burkert and the rest of the offense were able to close late and eventually pulled ahead to win 26-24, forcing a deciding fifth set.

Despite having the momentum heading into the final set, Temple committed six errors while hitting -.038. Villanova capitalized and cruised to an easy 15-6 victory, improving to 4-1 on the year.

“The fifth [set] is such a tricky one because it’s such a short set,” Ganes said. “So if you make an error you get punished twice basically. In that set, the team who makes less errors usually wins.”

“I think we were kind of relying on them to sort of make mistakes instead of taking the initiative to earn our points, and they wouldn’t back down,” sophomore setter Tiffany Connatser said.

Three Owls recorded double-doubles in the match. Burkert led all players with 21 kills to go along with 14 digs while junior outside hitter Gabriella Matuatia tallied 14 kills and 20 digs. Connatser showed consistent command of the offense as she posted a match high 53 assists to go along with 17 digs.

The Owls finished off the Big 5 tournament with a 3-0 win against La Salle to improve to 4-3 on the season and were named Big 5 tournament champions.

Jake Adams can be reached at jacob.adams@temple.edu.

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