Owls’ historic season start sets up conference play

The Owls ended their winning streak after losing to Villanova and Princeton University.

Temple volleyball players and coaches do a team cheer after a huddle during practice in McGonigle hall on Sept. 16. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When the Temple women’s volleyball team started racking up wins, they were “a little shocked,” junior libero Averi Salvador said.

The Owls started the season a program-best 9-0. They’ve since lost matches to Villanova and Princeton on Sept. 19 and 20, making them 9-2. 

The program’s previous best start came in 2014. Like the current team, Temple was not thought of highly going into that season, finishing next to last in the preseason poll. The Owls began that season on a 6-0 run before losing three straight matched and finishing non-conference play at 9-3. Temple continued winning once conference play began, going 15-5 including a 10-0 undefeated streak. They finished tied for second in the American Athletic Conference. 

Following the 2014 season, the Owls had three more winning seasons. 

That changed last year when the Owls’ finished with an 8-22 record.

“We are more of a team this year than we were last year,” junior outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou said. “We don’t have a leader. Everybody is a leader on the team.”

Freshman middle blocker Kayla Spells said she can feel a “family culture” with the team this season. 

“Everyone is really supportive of each other,” she added. “You always feel like you want to do better for your team and they’re gonna do better for you.”

Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam credits the team’s early success to a preseason based on implementing “fundamentals.” 

Temple’s two-game losing streak is a “humbling experience,” Ganesharatnam said. 

“A tournament or two matches like this also is an opportunity,” he added. “I think humbling experiences are necessary in life in order to grow, and this is one of those moments. I really think this is a valuable experience for us in our process and progression if we take it the right way.”

Temple’s conference schedule kicks off with a road trip down south. On Sunday, they take on South Florida  (5-8, 0-0 The American) before a showdown with the reigning conference champions Central Florida (7-5, 0-0 The American). The Knights went undefeated against conference opponents last year. 

This season, Centeral Florida beat the then-14th ranked University of Illinois (5-4, 1-0 The Big Ten). 

From 2014-17, the Owls went 60-20 in conference play. 

Ganesharatnam is quick to point out that this young team will go through many highs and lows.

“We are absolutely focused on the progression of the team, and building and forming a team,” he said. “Our end goal is to be performing at a level we think we can perform coming November so we can compete for a championship.”

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