Volleyball falls to A-10 champion Temple in thriller

The GW women’s volleyball team had the defending Atlantic 10 champion Temple Owls right were they wanted them. In their first match against rival Temple (4-6, 1-0 A-10) since the Lady Owls knocked the Colonials out of the A-10 Tournament last November, GW’s revenge was ready to be delivered.

But, A-10 Player of the Year Alma Kovaci pounded 35 kills and the Lady Owls overcame a 2-1 deficit to defeat GW in five games, stunning the Smith Center crowd Wednesday night. The match went back and forth as GW (8-3, 0-1 A-10) won the first and third games and then lost the second and fourth.

Up 2-1, I think we were a little complacent, said GW’s Interim Coach Jojit Coronel. When you win a game against Temple, you’ve got to continue to fight for every point because it’s not going to come easy. Temple deserves a lot of credit. (The loss) definitely gives us something to strive for.

And in the fifth and final game, in which side-outs are eliminated and a point is awarded on every series, Kovaci and the Owls woke up and crushed the Colonials to take their A-10 opener.

I told the girls we have to play our game and worry about our side of the court, Kovaci said.

The final game saw the Owls dominate GW 15-2 as the Kovaci-led Temple team jumped out to an 8-0 lead before the Colonials could muster a point. GW had unusual difficulty handling Temple’s service game at the end of the match, costing the Colonials critical points. Temple’s 11 kills and zero errors in only 14 total attempts gave the Lady Owls a lofty .786 attack percentage. Kovaci said her team just tried to keep itself calm in the fifth game.

I just try to have fun and be a leader regardless of the situation, Kovaci said. I just jump, see the ball and hit the ball.

The Colonials led 2-1 and scored the first two points of the fourth game behind a Ruth Lazzari ace and strong net play. But Temple fought back to take 12 of the next 13 points, forcing GW to mount a comeback. And the fiesty Colonials did just that, climbing back to within four points at 12-8. But a GW error, a kill by Temple’s Yamit Haba (23 kills) and a Kovaci ace to finish gave Temple its must-win fourth game, 15-8.

It’s disappointing because we worked really hard and it’s not like they were better than us, senior Julie Jahnke said. We just made errors and didn’t force them to make errors.

Temple’s fourth-game victory came after GW’s hard-earned 16-14 thrilling game-three win. GW’s Tracee Brown (19 kills) had three kills early to give GW momentum. But after leading 9-1 to open the game, the Colonials suddenly found themselves trailing 13-10 and 14-12.

That’s when senior Jill Levey made a sneaky lob-kill between two Lady Owls to give GW the side-out possession. Another Levey kill and emphatic block assists from Abby Ernst and Suzana Manole brought the Colonials back to a 14-14 tie. After a Brown kill and an error by Temple’s Sara Stone, who pounded the ball out of bounds, the Colonials found themselves up a game.

Temple won the second game 15-9 behind four Haba kills. Both teams continued their onslaught at the net with Temple pounding 20 kills and the Colonials pounding 17. Temple jumped out to a 12-4 lead, but GW fought back, scoring five unanswered points led by block assists from Jahnke and Manole and a Renee Arnold kill. GW, however, was unable to score again as the Colonials dropped their first game.

The Colonials stormed out to a 9-2 lead and never looked back in the opening match of their A-10 season, winning the game 15-10. Manole and Ernst stuffed Kovaci twice at the end of the game for critical points. The Colonials combined for 17.5 blocks in the match led by Manole’s eight block assists. The GW senior also posted a double-double with 13 kills and 22 digs, as did Jahnke, who pounded 17 kills with 15 digs.

GW’s a very good team, Kovaci said. They’re probably the best blocking team in A-10.

GW will have to shake off its first A-10 loss of the season because the Colonials travel to Fordham this Friday. The Colonials have won every match against the Rams since 1997.

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