Sports

Owls in mix for conference title again

Temple is in second place in The American with upcoming matches against the league’s top teams.

With six games left, Temple finds itself in a similar situation to last season. The Owls are once again near the top of the conference standings with games remaining against the conference’s other top teams.

For the second season in a row, Temple trails Southern Methodist in the standings, but this season Temple doesn’t need help to win the conference.

Temple (18-6, 11-3 American Athletic Conference) is currently ranked No. 51 in the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Ratings Percentage Index.

“This year, we’ve had a really good opportunity to show the team we really are,” junior middle blocker Janine Simmons said. “I think our tough preseason schedule has helped us in the rankings and shown other teams how good we are.”

Junior setter Kyra Coundourides serves during the third game of the Owls’ 3-2 victory against Memphis on Oct. 28 at McGonigle Hall. GENEVA HEFFERNAN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Junior setter Kyra Coundourides serves during the third game of the Owls’ 3-2 victory against Memphis on Oct. 28 at McGonigle Hall. GENEVA HEFFERNAN FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple has played every team in the conference at least once and beaten every team in The American except three.

Temple controls its own destiny with games against Southern Methodist and Cincinnati still on the schedule. The Owls are one game behind Southern Methodist in the conference standings and tied with Cincinnati. They’ve already beaten both teams earlier in the season.

“We’re just focusing really hard this season, playing every game like it is our last,” said senior outside hitter Tyler Davis. “We really can’t afford to lose any more games, we’re just focusing on achieving our goals for the end of the season. We know we can beat anyone, and we just know we have to play our game and show up.”

The Owls implemented a new system this season for a more fast-paced offense, and it has paid off. They currently rank in the top four in the conference in hitting percentage, kills per set, assists and service aces, largely due to the contributions of two players.

Junior setter Kyra Coundourides is third in the conference with 971 assists and leads the conference with 21 aces. Junior outside hitter Irem Asci has also been a big producer on the attack. Her 4.45 kills per set and 18 aces both are third in the conference. Asci led the team in kills last year and leads with 409 kills this season.

With the addition of more outside hitters on the floor, Temple’s blocks per set has increased in the 2016 season compared to the 2015 season. This season the Owls are averaging 2.2 blocks per set. Last season they averaged 1.9.

While a potential NCAA tournament bid could be on the line, the Owls are focused on every team in The American one game at a time.

“We’re not focused on the tournament right now, we’ve been here before,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “We know how tough this conference is so we’re just playing it one game at a time.”

But for the three seniors, the goal of making it to the tournament is in the back of their minds. They want to extend their final seasons as long as they can.

“If we’re done at the end of the season, the seniors are done for good,” Davis said. “We’ve also worked hard for the last four years and we want our goal of making it to the postseason to come true.”

Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at kevinschaeffer@temple.edu or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.

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