Despite losing key player, volleyball has 5-match win streak

Senior Irem Asci tore her ACL on Sept. 29, but Temple has only lost one match since.

Freshman outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou, junior middle blocker Carla Guennewig and senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz (left to right) anticipate a hit during the Owls’ 3-1 win against Tulsa on Friday at McGonigle Hall. | MIKE NGUYEN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When the Owls learned senior outside hitter Irem Asci tore her ACL and would be out for the rest of the season, coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam did not want to make any excuses for his team.

“Injuries are part of sports,” Ganesharatnam said he told his players.

“Nobody wants to get hurt, and nobody likes to see anybody get hurt,” he added. “Obviously it was a shock for us, but we needed to move on very fast in order to compete against Tulane. That’s what we’ve focused on. We just have to shake it off and keep competing.”

Asci’s season-ending injury happened on Sept. 29 in Temple’s win against Tulane. The athletic department sent paperwork to The American’s office seeking a medical redshirt for Asci, Ganesharatnam said. The team will not know if the application will be approved until the end of the season, he said, but it most likely will.

Temple has lost only one match since losing the two-time American Athletic Conference first-teamer.

The Owls (12-6, 8-2 The American) won their next match at Houston before losing to East Carolina at McGonigle Hall on Oct. 6. During the East Carolina match, co-captain and senior outside hitter Dara Peric didn’t play due to a concussion.

The Owls made adjustments in their 3-1 win against Cincinnati and swept South Florida in Tampa during Peric’s return on Oct. 13. After beating South Florida, Temple came back to win the final three sets against Central Florida on Oct. 15 after losing the first two.

After combining for 37 kills against South Florida and Central Florida on Oct. 13 and 15, senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz earned The American’s Offensive Player of the Week award. Rapacz said once she and her teammates learned of Asci’s injury, everybody knew they had to contribute more.

“Having anybody injured just takes a toll on a team,” Rapacz said. “The way that we’ve approached this and are attacking every game says something really good about our team. We take every game seriously and every practice seriously. I think it goes back to when [Ganesharatnam] said we are all talented individually but we don’t win anything if we don’t work as a team.”

Since the match against Tulane, some players have seen more action. Redshirt freshman Dana Westfield and freshmen Averi Salvador and Katerina Papazoglou have impressed Ganesharatnam the most, he said.

Prior to tearing her ACL, Asci was second on the team in kills. With Asci out, Westfield has taken over that spot. She has 159 kills, which rank only behind Rapacz. Westfield recorded a career-high 19 kills against Houston just one match after Asci’s injury.

For Salvador, a defensive specialist, all her points have come from service aces. During Temple’s trip to Florida, Salvador led the team in aces in both matches. She has also contributed 90 digs in 53 sets.

Papazoglou has made an impact in limited action. Through 52 sets, the freshman outside hitter has 97 digs and 68 kills. Papazoglou earned her first career double-double against Cincinnati with 18 digs and 11 kills, which were both career-highs before Friday’s 13-kill outing against Tulsa. She had double-double performances on Friday and Sunday against Southern Methodist.

Papazoglou is also second on the team with 13 service aces.

“That’s why I’m here, to help my team, encourage my team and do the best I can,” Papazoglou said. “[Asci] is a leader on the team, and it’s bad that she is out, but with her encouragement and our effort we can do anything.”

One of the main adjustments Temple made has been inserting junior middle blocker Carla Guennewig into the main rotation. After playing in just six of 12 matches through Sept. 29, Guennewig has missed only two matches since.

Ganesharatnam described Guennewig’s performance against Central Florida as “one of the best performances of her career since she’s been here.” He said her size and skill gives her the ability to play multiple positions. She and Rapacz are the team’s tallest players at 6 feet, 2 inches.

Guennewig hit 33.3 percent and had six kills against the Knights. She also added two digs and a service ace in the win against Central Florida.

She had four kills, two assists and two service aces in Friday’s win against Tulsa.

“Carla helps us out on the right side and even helps us out on the outside, which as a middle, is very hard to do,” Ganesharatnam said. “Luckily, we have multiple people who can step up, contribute and lead by example.”

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