PHILADELPHIA - After mounting a comeback but still falling short in the opening set of the match, Temple volleyball kept that momentum going to take each of the next three sets in a 3-1 win at Penn on Friday night. It was the first match of the Big 5 Tournament for the Owls (3-2), who will face Villanova and La Salle on Saturday. The win over the Quakers (0-1) is the first for Temple since the 2005 season.
Temple lost the first set 25-20, but rallied to win the next three by scores of 25-23, 25-23 and 25-21. Elyse Burkert
registered a match-best 16 kills and made it a double-double with 13 digs. Gabriella Matautia
also recorded a double-double with 13 kills and 12 digs, as did Tiffany Connatser
with 40 assists and 10 digs.
It was a real team effort for the Owls, who had strong performances across the board. Jingyu Zhang
was impressive defensively with 19 digs and three blocks, while libero Chelsea Tupuola
led all players with 23 digs. Jennifer Iacobini
knocked down five kills with no errors, also tallying three service aces and three blocks.
Penn surged ahead midway through the first set to take a 19-11 lead, but the Owls cut the margin to 19-15. They later trailed 24-17 before fending off three set points, but Penn's Lauren Martin put down the set-winning kill.
The second and third sets were the tightest of the match, with neither team ever taking commanding leads towards the end of the sets. The second set was tied as late as 18-18, and Temple led by just a point at 23-22 before taking two of the final three points. Matautia had a kill to give Temple set point, and a service error on Penn would later end the set and tie the match at 1-1. Temple's best hitting came in the third set, with 14 kills and only four errors as a team (.244). Trailing 5-4 in the third set, Temple went on a tear, using an 8-0 run to take a 12-5 lead.
The Owls stayed in the lead for the rest of that set, but Penn rallied to within a point on many occasions. Zhang would end the set with a kill to give Temple a 2-1 lead in the match.
Matautia recorded five kills in the fourth set, but things looked shaky for Temple early on as Penn jumped out to a 7-2 lead. The Owls recovered with a 5-0 run, and after the final tie at 12-12 they never again trailed. Penn came within a point at 22-21 before the Owls finished off the match with three straight points which included a kill by Matautia and an ace for Tupuola.
Saturday's action will begin for Temple at 1:00 p.m. against Villanova. The Owls will then face La Salle at 4:00 p.m.