When coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam took over Temple’s volleyball program in 2011, the Owls finished the season with an 8-20 record and No. 246 ranking in the end-of-season Rating Percentage Index. Since that season, Temple has won at least 18 games every season, and has been ranked as high as No. 48 this season.
Temple has not made the NCAA tournament since 2002, but this year’s Owls are determined to be the team to break the streak. A tournament appearance would be the first in Ganesharatnam’s career.
“I think it would be a very emotional day if we made the tournament,” senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton said. “They took all our [NCAA tournament] banners down from before, so it would be really nice to put one back up for him and for us.”
Overton has spent four seasons playing for Ganesharatnam and has seen the growth of the program. In her first year, Temple finished in the middle of the American Athletic Conference. Temple finished third and second in The American the previous two seasons, and is currently in third place this season.
“It has been amazing, everything he’s done for us,” junior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz said. “He’s built this gym into something it wasn’t just a few years ago. He always fights for us because Temple doesn’t always get a lot of credit for everything.”
When Ganesharatnam earned the head coaching job in 2011, the team used a shared locker room facility, he said. He worked with administration to get a facility “to provide the necessary privacy and space” for players.
The new locker room helped with recruiting, Ganesharatnam said. He said he likes to cover the entire country when recruiting — and some areas in Europe. Ganesharatnam has had players from Hawaii, California and Colorado in his tenure. He’s also gotten players from Germany, Turkey, Serbia and Croatia to come to Temple.
By putting more time into recruiting, Ganesharatnam said he doesn’t get a lot of sleep. But the larger talent pool has helped the team’s improvement.
“It’s a lot of work, in recruiting and developing players, to create a culture to help be successful,” he said. “Volleyball is the ultimate team sport, everyone is dependent on teammates to execute so you can do your part. Team chemistry is something we constantly nurture and try to excel at on a consistent basis.”
The Owls have also shared a bond together on and off the court during Ganesharatnam’s tenure. The team stays connected with group chats and has team dinners. Having a close-knit unit is something Ganesharatnam takes pride in because he knows it helps on-court chemistry as well as the atmosphere around the program.
“We really do a lot of research in order to get the right kids, with the right mindset, with the right character, so we can keep creating the culture we’ve created so far,” Ganesharatnam said.
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.
Evan Easterling contributed reporting.