When Temple plays at McGonigle Hall, there’s always an extra Owl present.
Halle McCullough, a 2016 adult and organizational development alumna, analyzes every hit, dig and block when she watches her former teammates at their home games.
After graduating, McCullough took a job in Philadelphia, making it possible for her to remain a part of the team. She comes to every home game and talks with the players and their families after matches.
“It’s great coming to all the games that I can,” McCullough said. “I know I can’t be in the huddle and hear everything that goes on, but I still live in the city, so I try to get to as many games as possible to still stay as close as I can.”
McCullough transferred to Temple from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington after redshirting in the 2012 season. In three seasons at Temple, she played in 103 sets, averaging 1.91 kills per set. Her best season was in 2014 when she played in 24 matches and finished third on the team in blocks.
The Colorado Springs, Colorado native felt she clicked better with the coaching staff at Temple and had a better connection with the girls on the team. She enjoyed the closeness of the locker room from which current transfers junior setter Kyra Coundourides and sophomore middle blocker Iva Deak are now benefitting.
“I’ve always been from the suburbs, my whole life, and even Gonzaga is like a suburb,” McCullough said. “Moving to the city was different, everything was loud and fast, but with the help of the team, I adjusted as quickly as I could.”
The family atmosphere is something coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam has worked on building in his locker room since joining the program in 2011. It has become more evident now with Ganesharatnam just getting married and inviting players over for team dinners; he wants his players to feel at home and be close with their teammates because they’re together so much.
“It’s always great to have the alumni, and have them remained involved with the program here,” Ganesharatnam said. “It is especially nice for the current players to see familiar faces in the crowd. And it’s just really great for the program as a whole.”
The coaching staff does its best every year to keep former players involved. Every season there is an alumni tournament at McGonigle Hall, where former players can play against the current squad.
For McCullough, every game is an alumni game, and a chance to watch her former teammates come together.
McCullough is not the only former Owl who still lives in Philadelphia. Former setter Sandra Sydlik, who earned first-team all-conference honors in 2014 and 2015, still works in the area and occasionally attends games.
“All of us in the city try to go to games,” McCullough said. “Sandra and me are the ones in the city currently, but last season, before she moved to North Jersey, Jennifer Iacobini would come too. It was just nice to come back, we were all close while we were at Temple, and we try to show that.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.