TEMPLE — Juliana Torres has spent the past four years working on her jump-serve.
On Wednesday night during Temple’s home opener against Florence, the Tem-Cat sophomore showed that she nearly has it honed to perfection.
Torres recorded 13 aces as Temple (3-4) swept the Lady Buffaloes (8-3) 25-17, 25-22, 25-20 at Wildcat Gym.
“It felt pretty great to get the win tonight,” Torres said. “You just have to stay confident and stay out of your head, work as a team and I feel like we really did great as a team tonight.
“I really felt the connection with my teammates.”
The teams traded points early on in the opening set before a Torres kill capped a 5-0 Tem-Cat run that put Temple up 18-10. The teams traded points the rest of the way as the Tem-Cats held on for the win.
“I’m proud of my girls because they played together and fought together as a team,” Temple coach Courtney Mitchell said. “We’ve been working on that and I just know they’re going to gel even more as the season goes on.
“I’m proud of the fight in the girls.”
The teams again traded points to start Game 2 and were tied 8-8 when the Lady Buffaloes put together a run that gave them a commanding 22-11 advantage.
The Tem-Cats then scored 14 consecutive points, with Torres serving and recording six aces during that stretch, including the game-winner.
Rhea Miles had three kills during the run for Temple and Carson Ingram had two.
“We had a couple little mental mistakes and ultimately it cost us,” Florence coach Jordan Pinson said. “In the first set, we suffered a little bit in our serve receive, and in the second set we let one server get in our heads. Other than that, we played really good volleyball.
“It’s really unfortunate that those two mental mistakes cost us.”
Pinson admitted his Lady Buffaloes had trouble handling Torres’ jump-serve.
“She serves a little bit different style than what we’ve seen so far this year,” he said. “The kids were trying to make the adjustment on the fly and unfortunately it got in our heads a little bit.”
Torres was proud of the way her team rallied in the second set.
“We deserved that win and I really am proud of us,” she said. “I felt a little pressure being down that much but I had to shake it off, do what was best for the team and just focus.”
Mitchell said Torres’ serves gave the Tem-Cats the confidence to battle back.
“There has to be a sense of confidence for them to come back the way they did,” Mitchell said. “They know what they have in them. They just need to relax, take a deep breath and go push and find it.
“I’m excited that they found it as a team. Juliana gave us that momentum to fight. When you ask teams what is their why, in that game our why was Juliana’s serves.”
Game 3 was again close before Temple put together a 6-2 run, capped by a kill by Jessica Vaden to put some distance between them with a 19-14 advantage.
Neither team scored more than two consecutive points the rest of the way, and Ariyan Johnson closed out the match with an ace.
Autumn Dowell led Temple with eight kills, while Torres and Ingram each had seven. Johnson had nine digs, Hope Davis added five digs and Mia Ward had 23 assists.
The Tem-Cats and Lady Buffaloes meet again today when they square off in the first round of the Gatesville Invitational.
“We learned that we can’t allow them to get up on us,” Mitchell said. “We can’t allow them to get ahead because they are a team that works well together and if we allow them, they will take over.
“Tonight we were strong enough to overcome that. Tomorrow we have to go in ready to play again, like tonight never happened.”