On Friday, the Owls found themselves facing a similar situation against Houston. Temple was up two sets to none on the Cougars heading into the break. Earlier in the season on Oct. 1, Temple gave up its 2-0 lead before finally winning the match in the fifth set at Houston.
But in this match, the Owls had one main goal for the third set. Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam urged his team to finish off the sweep.
Temple had match-point in the third set. A perfect serve-receive from junior libero Mia Heirkauji gave senior setter Kyra Coundourides time to make a short pass to the middle of the net. Senior middle blocker Janine Simmons finished off the fundamental sequence with a kill directly to the hole in the middle of Houston’s defense to win the match.
Temple (13-6, 9-2 American Athletic Conference) has now won nine of its last 10 matches after closing out Houston in three sets at McGonigle Hall on Friday.
Redshirt freshman outside hitter Dana Westfield led Temple offensively with a team-high 14 kills while hitting 33.3 percent.
“The last game when we beat them in five they thought we kind of just escaped, like we barely got out with the win,” Westfield said. “They’ve been coming out to play against everybody, but especially against us, they’re really fired up.”
Westfield also had a team-high 19 kills in the Oct. 1 match against Houston. She said that despite of the sweep, Houston proved “that they’re a really scrappy team” by holding “long rallies” against Temple.
Many times in the match, there were plays that went on for more than 30 seconds with both teams sending the ball back and forth over the net. Temple’s back row was able to keep several balls alive throughout the three sets and the Owls recorded 61 digs for the match.
Freshman defensive specialist Averi Salvador led the team with 15 digs. Salvador was extremely active against the Cougars by communicating with her teammates and diving for digs on several occasions.
“We really wanted to beat Houston in three, so our focus was better than it usually is,” Salvador said. “I just felt better at reading [Houston’s attacks] and talking with Mia.”
Temple had 49 kills and hit 27.8 percent against Houston. The Owls also held the Cougars to hit just 18.4 percent. On the season, Temple is holding opponents to a hitting average of 18.5 percent.
Simmons and senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz each had a game-high five blocks against the Cougars.
With the win, Temple now has seven sweeps on the season and is on a six match winning streak.
Temple will face Tulane on Oct. 29th at 1 p.m. at McGonigle Hall on Sunday.
“We wanted to put [Houston] away, and going into the match, we really emphasized beating them in three,” Ganesharatnam said. “It’s something we focused on all week and I’m glad we were able to execute. I think it’s great that we got this win and I think it’s great that we were able to beat them in three.”