Few, if any, saw the Owls coming – at least the other coaches in the conference.
Finishing No. 9 out of 11 schools in the conference preseason poll, women’s volleyball’s 9-3 record has exceeded the critics’ expectations.
The team won the Syracuse Invitational held from Aug. 30-31 and Temple Invitational held from Sept. 5-6, before dropping three consecutive matches in the Long Island University-Brooklyn Invitational Sept. 12 and 13. The team bounced back, winning the Big 5 Invitational Sept. 19-20.
Yet, for coach Bakeer Ganes’ squad, The American Athletic Conference is a step up from Temple’s non-conference opponents and those they used to see in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“The teams are bigger and more athletic,” Ganes said. “We’ve been in this conference for a year now so we don’t really bother comparing it to the A-10 anymore.”
Ganes downplayed the team’s low rank in the preseason poll, indicating that it’s hard to gauge what the conference is made up of until seeing each team on the court. The Owls will get their first dose of conference play this week with matches against Connecticut and East Carolina.
“The preseason poll doesn’t really mean much because if you think about it, it’s mainly based on accomplishments from last year,” Ganes said. “Most of the time we don’t really know how the teams are put together this year.”
Ganes said the first month of the schedule is structured to prepare the Owls for the last two months, all of which will be against conference opponents. Temple has played four five-set matches, “I think we learned a lot every weekend and we have to keep learning,” Ganes said.
While Ganes admits to not paying much attention to the preseason poll in The American, the players are aware of how other coaches in the conference feel about their team.
“For sure [we’re motivated],” senior middle blocker Alex Schmitt said. “It’s kind of been a reoccurring thing. We get picked to be closer towards the bottom of the conference and we do have a lot of tough competition this year, but it’s nothing we didn’t see last year. I think we handled it pretty well last year.”
Fellow senior Tiffany Connatser said the team embraces the challenge of the team’s ninth-place spot in the preseason poll.
“We like to be the underdog,” Connatser said. “We like to come in and have people think that it’s going to be an easy game, and we’re going to come out and surprise them and beat them.”
The team has grown to become familiar with most of The American, but will have three new opponents in 2014 additions East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane.
Greg Frank can be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @g_frank6