“We definitely felt a little disrespected, as a conference not just us as a team, after we saw the video knowing it was still possible to be co-champs,” junior outside hitter Tyler Davis said. “Not getting first place gives us plenty of motivation for next year.”
Temple (24-8, 15-5 American Athletic Conference) finished the season with the same record as last season, which was good enough for second place in The American but not good enough to earn a spot in the Division I Women’s Volleyball Tournament.
“We’re happy that we were able to have some success this year,” sophomore outside hitter Izzy Rapacz said. “But this is definitely not where we wanted to finish the season.”
Some inconsistent play during the middle of the season was a rough stretch for the Owls. In October, the Owls did not win more than two games in a row at any point and also lost to Tulane, who finished last in the conference standings.
Once the calendar flipped to November, things changed. A combination of playing on a lengthy homestand, and using a rotation that allowed individuals to focus on certain parts of their game helped Temple finish the season on a seven-game win streak.
“It was really important having a good finish after a tough [Ratings Percentage Index] loss to Tulane,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “But we were able to beat some of the best teams in our conference to end the year. Connecticut, Central Florida and Southern Methodist, were all great wins for us.”
Other than playing six of the last seven games of the season at home, the use of the new rotation was integral for the players to turn the year around and end on a high note.
“It helped us a lot being able to focus on one part of my game,” Davis said. “Knowing myself, I know I have some weaknesses, but we have enough talent on our team that we have someone who strength is my weakness, and vice versa.”
The loss to Tulane also opened the eyes for the team. The Green Wave’s victory exposed some flaws in the Owls’ play.
“Once we got home, I think we started to get into our groove,” senior libero Alyssa Drachslin said. “Every loss we had this season was because we didn’t play our best, and I think the winning streak shows how good we were when we all played on the same page.”
The Owls’ late season surge was not enough to get them into the NCAA tournament.
Even though the Owls notched a win against a Top 30 RPI team when they beat Southern Methodist Nov. 22, the mid-season losses came back to haunt them as they finished the year ranked No. 72 in RPI.
“We controlled what we could control and won the games we could win,” Ganesharatnam said. “Now we have four really good seniors to replace, but I think we’ll come back next year strong.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.