WVU volleyball moving on in the NIVC, sweeps Temple, 3-0

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Notching its second sweep in two days, the West Virginia University volleyball team downed Temple, 3-0, in the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) on Wednesday evening at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown. WVU (20-12, 6-10) earned its fourth consecutive win, taking the victory in set scores of 25-23, 25-18 and 25-12.

The Mountaineers will host the third round of the NIVC Tournament on Monday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m. inside the WVU Coliseum. West Virginia’s opponent has yet to be determined, as the Mountaineers will square off against Albany, Syracuse, Colgate or Towson.

WVU has now won 20 matches in a season for the first time since a 20-13 campaign in 2013. West Virginia is just one victory shy of reaching 21 wins for the first time since 1991, a season in which the Mountaineers made the NIVC Tournament for the first time in program history. With 20 wins this year, third-year coach Reed Sunahara has earned his highest win total with the Mountaineers.

“I thought that was a very good win for us against a very good team,” Sunahara said. “Temple’s well coached. Bakeer’s [Ganesharathnam] a great coach, but I thought we played well. After the first set, I thought we got a lot better. I thought we were lucky to win the first, but we played well enough to win, and I’m proud of our girls.”

Sophomore outside hitter Payton Caffrey and senior outside hitter Morgan Montgomery led the Mountaineers with 12 kills each, as Montgomery hit a team-high .370 in the match. Sophomore right side hitter Natania Levak added nine, while senior middle blocker Mia Swanegan had five kills in the win.

Senior libero Gianna Gotterba led the floor defensively with 13 digs. Caffrey and freshman defensive specialist Alexa Hasting added eight digs apiece, while senior setter Emma Anderson dished out 34 assists.

The Mountaineers finished the match hitting .321 with 45 kills on 109 swings to go along with seven service aces and seven team blocks. Katerina Papazoglou led the Owls with nine kills, as Temple hit .202 with 37 kills and six team blocks.

Temple came out strong in the first set, using a pair of early scoring runs to take a 7-4 lead over West Virginia. The squads continued to exchange points down the stretch, as Caffrey found the middle of the floor to tie the set at 15-15. An attacking error from Temple gave West Virginia the one-point edge, but the set was later tied once again at 20-20 following a kill from Temple’s Dana Westfield. Freshman middle blocker Briana Lynch threw down a kill, followed by Caffrey, as the Mountaineers then took the 23-21 advantage. Temple did not back down, though, as Papazoglou notched back-to-back kills to tie the set for the 12th time at 23-23. West Virginia took a timeout and scored two straight points out of the stoppage for the 25-23 win and the 1-0 match lead.

West Virginia had 13 kills, hitting .333 for a 25-18 win in set two behind five kills from Montgomery. The Owls capitalized on several Mountaineer miscues for a 5-2 lead. However, Montgomery put down a pair of kills, followed by Levak, as the Mountaineers scored three straight points to take a 11-9 advantage. Sophomore defensive specialist Gabrielle Cuckovich added a service ace, while Caffrey put one through the pins to push West Virginia ahead, 17-13. Temple later cut its deficit to two with back-to-back kills, down 20-18, forcing WVU to take its first timeout of the stanza. Out of the stoppage, the Mountaineers racked up three straight points before a Gotterba ace put WVU at set point. Levak then ended the frame with a kill for the 25-18 win and a 2-0 match lead.

With just three errors in the third set, WVU hit .371 with 16 kills for a 25-12 victory. The Mountaineers started off with a 10-4 lead, but the Owls used a trio of kills to cut their deficit to three at 10-7. West Virginia then used a pair of 3-0 scoring runs for a 21-11 advantage before Temple took its second and final timeout of the stanza. Papazoglou notched her ninth kill of the match following the timeout, but West Virginia ended the Owls’ hopes, registering four consecutive kills to seal the 25-12 win.

With tonight’s victory, West Virginia topped Temple for the first time since 1991, knotting the all-time series at 16-16.

Of note, the semifinals will take place from Dec. 4-6. The Championship match is slated for Dec. 12, hosted at one of the two remaining schools, with a live broadcast available through WatchESPN and the ESPN app.