BUFFALO, N.Y. - Gabriella Matautia and Sandra Sydlik were named to the University at Buffalo Invite All-Tournament Team after leading Temple volleyball to a win vs. Niagara in a five-set thriller. The Owls won the first two sets 25-11 and 25-14 before falling in the next two, 25-20 and 25-22. Temple regained its form and then fought off two Niagara match-points before winning 17-15 in the fifth and final set.
"We did a really job in the first two sets," said Temple head coach Bakeer Ganes. "We had some injuries happen right before this tournament, and one was Elyse (Burkert) who pulled an ab muscle. We pulled her after two sets and changed the lineup. Niagara started playing much stronger also. We put the starting lineup back in for the fifth set and that helped us."
Matautia finished with a double-double of 21 kills and 17 digs in the win, while Sydlik also recorded a double-double with 40 assists and 13 digs. Elyse Burkert was solid on defense with 13 digs, as was Jennifer Iacobini with a match-best six blocks.
With 17 kills and just three errors in the first set compared to Niagara's seven kills, the Owls easily ran away with the first set. Temple then hit even more efficiently in the second set with 11 kills and no errors, leading from the first point and all the way through.
The error-free play disappeared in the third set. The Owls were still tied with Niagara at 19-19, but a number of errors down the stretch gave the set to the Purple Eagles. The fourth set ended in similar fashion after being tied at 21-21, sending the match into five sets.
Temple then found itself on the brink, down 12-8 before finally rallying for the win. Matautia and Emily Carlin each knocked down kills to stave off a match point for Niagara, and it was another kill for Matautia that finally gave the Owls a match point. An attack error on the Purple Eagles gave Temple its final point for the win.
"We just made a lot of unforced errors," said Ganes, "to end the fourth set and especially to start the fifth. I've got to give Niagara credit, they really played hard, but I don't think we finally started making plays until we were down 12-8 in the fifth. Gabby was incredible in the final stretch. Sandra was very good with a number of sets in a row, and Emily made some plays. We put ourselves in that situation though. We had no business going to five sets.
"We need to be happy about this. Now we move on and we know exactly what we need to work on. We do have eight new kids to integrate into our system, and we knew the beginning of the season would be tough. It will take us a bit to get adjusted. At this stage we want to survive and continue to get better."
Next up for the Owls is the Patriot Invitational at George Mason University next weekend, where they will face Radford on Friday night along with Coppin State and GMU on Saturday.