By Jonathan Gilbert
The Owls (3-0) came into their home opener against Charlotte (4-3) emotionally charged for the “Temple Invitational Tournament”. Behind 300 roaring fans, the marching band, Hooter T. Owl, and the Diamond Gem dance team they came into the first set in the Pearson-McGonigle gym rearing and ready to go.
Charlotte was very poised through the first set, battling evenly throughout the game. Charlotte had a 6-1 run to take the lead 13-9.They seemed to have the set under control when they went up 18-13. Temple then went on an exhilarating 7-2 run to knot the game up at 20 with the help of some thunderous spikes and mental mistakes from the Forty Niners. Despite the comeback from Temple, the Niners composed themselves and put together a 5-0 to complete the set with the score 25-20.
The Owls entered the second set looking like they had something to prove in front of the home crowd. They started out on 10-4 but Charlotte soon responded. They made some adjustments during the brief timeout and came storming back to take the lead 13-12. Owls coach Bakeer Ganes called a timeout and Temple retook the lead 19-14. The closest Charlotte brought the score was 20-16 but the Owls ripped off a 5-0 run to conclude the set and even the match at 1-1.
Going into the crucial third set, the Owls completely asserted their dominance over Charlotte and had their way with them. There were no lead changes in this set as the Owls got off to a torrid 7-0 start and refused to slow down. The closest the Niners got within six points four times but each time the Owls snuffed them out. The Niners couldn’t put any sustained runs together and due to that they couldn’t gain any momentum to mount a comeback. The Owls really fed off the home crowd and cruised to the finish in this set, 25-16.
As the Owls were up 2-1 in the match, the Niners knew that they had their work cut out for them going into the fourth set. It was do or die time for them and they refused to go down quietly. They battled valiantly as neither team really took control of this set. It was a back and forth affair with the score being within four points the entire way until Temple took charge and made the score 20-15. The Niners then made it a bit gut wrenching for the Owls as they cut the deficit to three points with the score being 21-18. Their rally ended there though, as the Owls went on a 4-3 run to end the set with the score 25-21.
The first set seemed to catch Temple off guard and highlighted the inexperience of the team but in the subsequent sets they really showed how talented they can be as they battled back and overtook Charlotte. It was a real team effort as Alyssa Drachslin recorded a match-best 22 digs. Sandra Sydlik a double-double, contributing 13 digs and 43 assists. Tyler Davis was one dig shy of a double-double, finishing with 14 kills and nine digs. Freshman Dara Peric contributed 12 kills, and Jennifer Iacobini had a strong match with seven kills, a match-best hitting percentage of .400 and six blocks.
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