On the outside looking in: Owls miss tournament

The team’s third straight 20-win season wasn’t enough to make the NCAA tournament.

Senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton pauses on the court after a lost point during Wednesday’s four-set loss to Southern Methodist. HOJUN YU FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

Everyone on the team huddled around the TV to see what its future would hold. The players watched 64 other schools get picked to play in the NCAA tournament during the NCAA selection show Sunday night, and they found out their season was officially over.

“It would’ve been great to get to play in the postseason for us seniors and for the program,” senior middle blocker Kirsten Overton said. “But we accomplished so much this season and even in our four years helping build this program back up.”

Temple finished the season with a 22-8 record, and a 15-5 record in the American Athletic Conference. Over the course of the season, Temple played three teams that made the tournament: Cleveland State University, Southern Methodist and Cincinnati. The Owls went 2-3 in five games against those teams.

The Owls finished No. 47 in the Ratings Percentage Index, breaking the Top 50 in the RPI for the first time since 2002, when they finished the season ranked No. 37. The 2002 season was the last time the Owls made the NCAA tournament.

“This season has definitely felt different,” junior middle blocker Janine Simmons said. “We had a tough preseason, and we played well in conference play. We just thought we had a good enough resume to get in, but we know we have to work harder next season.”

Temple will lose two starters next season with Overton and senior outside hitter Tyler Davis graduating. Davis and Overton finished the season third and fourth on the team in total kills, and Overton led the team in blocks.

In their careers at Temple, the pair combined for more than 1,000 kills. Davis was just seven kills shy of the mark alone, and had almost 150 blocks.

“I’ve had a great time in the last four years here, I put everything on the court,” Davis said. “I’m glad because I think that I’ll have a lasting impact on the team, whether it be the new locker rooms, or just building the program to where it is now.”

Though it is losing two starters, Temple is also returning many key players. Junior outside hitters Irem Asci and Izzy Rapacz have been the focal points of Temple’s offense this season. Asci led the team in kills for the second straight season with 504. Also returning is sophomore libero Mia Heirakuji, who accumulated 375 digs in her first season as a starter.

This season ended just as it did last year, outside the tournament. On the year, Temple only had one loss to a team that finished with an RPI worse than 150. That loss was in the third game of the season against junior setter Kyra Coundourides’ old team, Virginia Tech.

Overall, this season was big for The American. In the final RPI rankings, the conference had six teams break the Top 100. That tied The American with the Mountain West Conference for the sixth most out of every conference. The Power 5 conferences were the only leagues to have more teams represented in the Top 100. As well as being represented well in the rankings, The American also sent two teams to the NCAA tournament.

Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at kevinschaeffer@temple.edu or on Twitter @_kevinschaeffer.

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