Owls focused on improvement in 2015

With 12 players returning from a 25-win team, the Owls are working this summer to correct last season’s mistakes.

Inside a single court basketball gym with white walls in Pearson McGonigle Halls, Tyler Davis took a moment to absorb what was going on around her.

Dripping with sweat, the junior outside hitter leaned over to a teammate during an open gym session earlier this summer and whispered ‘this season is going to be great.’

“You could just tell in everyone’s eyes that everyone was so ready to play and everyone was being so competitive,” Davis said. “What we really talk about a lot now is that no one is going to do this for us or help us through this except for us.”

Last season, Temple earned a 24-8 record, while ranking 62nd among Division I teams in Ratings Percentage Index. The Owls posted one of the most successful seasons in team history, but missed out on a bid in the 64-team NCAA tournament.

Temple tied for second with Southern Methodist in the American Athletic Conference, eventually falling to third due to total team points during the regular season. Central Florida, The American’s top team, received the lone NCAA tournament bid for the conference,which had five teams finish with a Top 100 RPI.

“What we really talk about a lot now is that no one is going to do this for us or help us through this except for us,” Davis said. “We are the only ones who care about how we do. Our conference does not get much respect and our school does not get much respect because we have not done well in past seasons.”

Temple lost two of its final five regular season games, a part of the season that could have changed its fate.

After leading Tulsa two sets to none, the Owls dropped the next three sets, falling to the Golden Hurricane 3-2. In the following game, Temple dropped the last two sets of the match against SMU, losing 3-1.

“There were times where we fell through the cracks and we could have fought back instead,” Davis said. “I think that is how we lost some of the games towards the end.”

During open gym sessions this summer, the team is not harping on last year, but rather focusing on improvements for 2015.

“If we can tell someone is not focused or having an off day, we get kind of frustrated because we don’t want to waste any time,” Davis said. “We are there trying to get better because we want to accomplish a lot during the season.”

The Owls are returning 12 players from last year’s team and Davis said the competition for a starting spot is at a high level, which is helping elevate the team’s play.

“Everyone wants to start, everyone wants to play and stay in the game,” Davis said. “Having someone playing just as good or even better than you is constantly pushing you.”

Junior middle blocker Kirsten Overton, who finished with a team-high 39.4 hitting percentage last season, said players are not just building skills and developing chemistry while competing in the summer. They are also finding their niche within the team.

“There are no coaches, so we kind of have to keep each other focused and I think that is a big thing we do,” Overton said. “I think we are a team that is very mature. We are a team that knows when to step into each role and when to not.”

One player who has helped the team stay focused over the summer is senior libero Alyssa Drachslin. The returning captain has used her experience to help the returning players and is looking to lead by example in 2015.

“I want to set the tone for the other girls,” Drachslin said. “It’s not about all the things I can accomplish, but what I can do to help my team accomplish. If I can do that by being the best player I can be, then I will be hopefully fulfilling that role by preparing before games, during games and after games.”

The Owls, who lost three seniors to graduation — including one starter — have also needed players to step into leadership positions this offseason and Overton has willingly taken on the added responsibility.

“Trying to keep a team together is one of  my roles,” Overton said. “I am not the person who is going to rip you a new one if you don’t do well, that is someone else’s job and mine is to say like okay, you got this.”

Connor Northrup can be reached at connor.northrup@temple.edu.

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