Caroline Grattan acted like she’s been here before.
Grattan has been happy with her play early on this season, along with the team’s six straight wins to open the season. The sophomore right side hitter was named to the All-Tournament team Aug. 31 at the Syracuse Invitational, and has led the team in kills in five of Temple’s six matches.
“Being here for summer really was able to mentally prepare us,” Grattan said.
With Elyse Burkert and Gabby Matautia, the team’s two most productive players a year ago having graduated after last season, Temple has an inexperienced roster looking for leadership.
Including transfers Kayla Yingling and Halle McCullough, 11 of the Owls’ 16 players on the roster have been with the program one year or less. But, while only being a sophomore, Grattan said she feels she can be a leader on the team.
“I think on the court it’s really easy for me to demonstrate leadership,” Grattan said. “The amount of playing time that I’m getting and the amount of points add to the amount of responsibility I have.”
Coach Bakeer Ganes said Grattan is an experienced sophomore and has confidence she can be a leader for the team.
“I think the good thing for [Grattan] was that she was exposed to some playing minutes last year as a freshman and that really helped her to mature,” Ganes said. “She certainly made her share of mistakes but that was OK. The main thing for her was she got the opportunity to play and grow as a player.”
Grattan’s calm demeanor on the court has shown as evidence that she’s willing to step up and play above her age. Ganes said he wanted to convey this message to her for her to realize it’s important to play loosely and in control.
“The main message was just to relax and be herself and let the game come to her,” Ganes said.
Another player on the roster that has helped Grattan succeed early on this year has been sophomore middle blocker Kirsten Overton. Overton was named the tournament MVP at the Syracuse Invitational and feels her play, along with Grattan’s, has exceeded that of her sophomore status.
“We’re mature for our age,” Overton said. “We worked really hard this summer, the whole team, but me and Caroline tried really hard to keep our starting positions.”
Overton also noticed that it helps having someone her age playing a similar role in the team’s early success.
“I love playing with [Grattan],” Overton said. “I feel like we both hold each other responsible for scoring points and keeping in rallies and I kind of depend on her a lot and it’s good that we hold each other responsible.”
While Grattan is enjoying her early success, the team’s success is at the forefront of her concerns.
“Like we were talking about last year you can’t play with one person on the court,” Grattan said. “[Matautia] was a great example of that we did really successfully whenever we had one go to player but I think even if I’m playing well the entire team needs to step up as well.”
Winning both of the team’s tournaments to open the year has Grattan confident that the players around her will continue to show up ready to play.
“Both weekends were really good indicators that we’ll do well in the future,” Grattan said.
Temple will next be on the court this weekend in New York for the two-day Long Island University-Brooklyn Invitational.
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @G_Frank6