When a player suddenly receives less playing time, it usually has to do with that player’s inability to perform well during games. For Janine Simmons, that was not the case.
Simmons started 28 matches and played in 99 sets as a sophomore in 2015. The 6-foot-1-inch middle blocker ranked second on the team with 86 blocks that year, but the following season she saw significantly less playing time. Last year as a junior, Simmons played in just 17 matches and participated in 45 sets.
The Owls added two transfers before the 2016 season, including middle blocker Iva Deak. She played in 26 matches and 92 sets during her sophomore season, finishing third on the team in blocks. Eight different Owls also entered last season having played at least 100 sets at the Division I level.
“We’ve had new people come on to the team and contribute in different ways,” Simmons said. “We tried to look at different lineups, seeing who was the best fit for which particular match. There were opponents where I wasn’t really the best option, so in that case, someone else was going to go in and play.”
“It’s not that she didn’t become a better player, she actually became a better player,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “But the team itself got better as a well.”
The Owls opened their season last weekend. Simmons’ 53.8 percent attack rate led the team in its win against Northeastern University on Friday. She led Temple with five blocks in Saturday’s loss to the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and hit 54.5 percent in Temple’s loss to the University of Maryland Saturday night.
Though Simmons played less in 2016, the team performed well against better competition compared to 2015. Last season, the Owls finished with a 22-8 record and placed 47th in the Ratings Percentage Index rankings, 25 spots better than their No. 72 in 2015.
Despite the lesser role, Simmons still felt like an effective player even while she was not on the court. Instead of worrying about playing time, Simmons made the best of her situation and stayed involved on the sidelines by motivating her teammates. In the weeks leading up to the 2017 season, Simmons continued to put the team first by helping the team’s three freshmen get acclimated to the college lifestyle.
Ganesharatnam acknowledged how valuable a player like Simmons is, and said she “is very significant on the court and even off the court as well.”
Four players are competing for two starting spots at middle blocker, but each of them are expected to contribute this season. Simmons, along with Deak, junior Carla Guennewig and freshman Baleigh Jean-Philippe will share the responsibility at middle blocker throughout Temple’s 29-match schedule.
Ganesharatnam said Simmons is “going to get her fair share of playing time.” She plans on making an abiding impression on the program for her senior season, but will embrace whatever role is given to her this year.
“I would love to go and play and do well, and be ranked as far as blocking again because that’s something that I feel I excel in,” Simmons said. “But I really just want to make some sort of a lasting impact.”