NEWARK, N.J. - In a back-and-forth match, Temple volleyball proved once again it knows how finish close games as the Owls toughed out a five-set, come-from-behind win at NJIT (1-4) on Wednesday. It was the fifth straight win for the Owls (5-1) who took the victory by scores of 25-15, 24-26, 15-25, 25-18 and 16-14.
Reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Week Gabriella Matautia led Temple with a double-double of 15 kills and 11 digs. Freshman Tyler Davis, seeing her first significant action of the season, recorded 12 kills and three blocks.
Freshman Halle McCullough was on the court for the first time as an Owl, and knocked down seven kills while tallying just a single error for a hitting percentage of .400. Tiffany Connatser and Sandra Sydlik split setting duties, recording 25 and 22 assists, respectively.
"We had a really hard time today and just never got into our rhythm," said Temple head coach Bakeer Ganes. "If we would have won the second set it would have been a much easier match. We just had a tough time overall. I have to give NJIT a lot of credit, they got stronger and stronger as the match went on. But overall it was more of what we didn't do (that hurt us)."
The Owls won the first set handily, 25-15. Emily Carlin's five blocks led the way as Temple never trailed in the set and recorded 10 team blocks to the Highlanders' three.
Both teams recorded 17 kills with six errors in an extremely tight second set that was tied a total of 22 times. The Owls staved off one set point with a kill from Matautia, but NJIT's Fran Edmondson set up another set point with a kill, which was followed by a block for the Highlanders to end the set.
Too many errors cost the Owls in the third set, but when they found themselves down 2-1 in the match, they came back in a big way.
"It says a lot (to win when you're not at your best)," said Ganes. "You're going to have these matches where you're not going to perform well. It's good that we were still able to come away with the victory. I give our team credit, we never gave up. Everybody on the court tried their hardest and we used a lot of players tonight. They all tried hard and they all fought. It was a good character test."
Temple closed the fourth set on a 6-2 run to win 25-18, finishing it off with a service ace from Caroline Grattan.
The shortened fifth set was an intense one with nine ties and seven lead changes. Danica Vukotic set her team up for match point with a kill, but her twin sister Nina recorded an attack error to even the score back up at 14-14. Temple's Alex Schmitt then knocked down a kill to give the Owls' match point, and another NJIT error ended the match in Temple's favor.
The Owls will be back in action this weekend at the Penn Invitational, taking on Weber State Saturday evening at 6:00 p.m. before facing La Salle and Penn on Sunday.