Through the first half of its conference schedule, Temple has proven its worth.
While the Owls opened the season winning three of four weekend tournaments and posting a 9-3 record in the non-conference portion of the schedule, other coaches in the American Athletic Conference appeared skeptical as to how the Owls would fare against fellow American foes.
Temple was picked to finish ninth in the American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Through 11 conference matches, the Owls sit at 9-3 and second in the conference behind Central Florida. Sophomore middle blocker Kirsten Overton said the team has been motivated by the low expectations other coaches in the conference had for Temple.
“I think we’re always considered the underdog,” Overton said. “It’s finally nice to really show everyone and say, ‘Hey, we can hang with people and we can even beat people.’”
As a middle blocker, Overton has played a role in Temple’s second-place conference ranking for team hitting percentage in the conference, as she ranks second individually with her mark of 41.5 percent.
The Owls have won six matches in a row, and eight of their last nine, including a win over preseason conference favorite Southern Methodist.
“I think we really went after them,” Overton said. “I think we were just really in their face.”
This high-intensity level from the Owls helped lead to a 3-2 victory over SMU. Temple managed to hold SMU to a 13.6 hitting percentage, which pleased coach Bakeer Ganes.
“Whenever you keep that low on the hitting percentage, it’s a complete team effort,” Ganes said.
But, the Owls will have to remain focused heading into the home stretch of conference play. A year ago, Temple started 6-1 in conference play only to finish 9-9.
“We know what we need to take care of and we definitely learned from last year,” junior libero Alyssa Drachslin said.
A year ago, Temple opened with five of its first seven conference matches at home. This season, the Owls played six of their first eight conference matches away from McGonigle Hall. Drachslin said the heavy home schedule down the stretch will make for an easier task at hand for her team.
“I think it’s good that we’re where we are now having the schedule that we have,” Drachslin said.
Ganes said his expectations for his team remain the same as they were a year ago.
“We’re always optimistic,” Ganes said. “I think it is an advantage to play at home but it’s not a guarantee.”
As Temple enters the final month of the regular season, it begins to see a lot of conference opponents for the second time.
“We know that we can beat anybody,” Ganes added. “At the same time we also know the teams we beat, we could lose to them.”
Greg Frank can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @G_Frank6