Owls’ seniors set sights on first career NCAA tournament appearance

The group hopes to lead the team to its first tournament berth since 2002.

Senior outside hitter Tyler Davis taps the ball over the net in the Owls’ straight sets loss to South Florida at McGonigle Hall on Oct. 14. ZACH FISCHER FOR THE TEMPLE NEWS

After a last-second meeting with coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam before practice, seniors Tyler Davis, Caroline Grattan and Kirsten Overton ran to the locker room to get as ready as quickly as they could. As seniors, they want to lead by example, which means being one of the first players on the court for practice.

The seniors have transitioned into a new role for the season. In previous years, they didn’t have to worry about some of the things they do now, like setting an example for the underclassmen on the team.

“It has been interesting, it’s been a fun change for all of us,” Davis said. “All of us seniors talked about it. We’ve transitioned to be able to put our individual goals to the side for the bigger goal as a team.”

The seniors look to be the class that leads Temple to the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship tournament for the first time since 2002, when the Owls made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen round. That tournament run included an upset win against 13th-ranked Penn State and is the farthest the team advanced in the tournament in school history.

This season has looked promising for the seniors to reach that goal, as Temple has received some national recognition for its play. The Owls are No. 66 in the Oct. 17 Division I Ratings Percentage Index.

When the rankings first came out on Oct. 10, Ganesharatnam was the first one to text his team through its group chat and let his players and assistant coaches know where they stood compared to other teams.

The seniors know the Owls’ ranking could earn them an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if they don’t win The American.

“In the previous seasons, I never really looked at the rankings,” Grattan said. “But when we found out that other teams in the conference were around Top 50, it made us think that we’re on that level too.”

As well as being leaders off the court, the seniors look to be vocal leaders on the court during matches. Davis, an outside hitter, and Overton, a middle blocker, have been key contributors throughout the season. Davis, who has played all 18 matches, is third on the team in kills. Overton has started 17 of 18 games, and is first among players who played at least 60 sets, with a 35.7 hitting percentage. Grattan plays her role off the bench, averaging 1.1 kills per set in nine games, one of which she started.

The seniors said the most important thing is leaving a lasting impact on the team. They want to be a part of the Temple volleyball family, and hope the impact they have can help in the future with a culture that they helped create, which includes winning, but also being a close group of friends.

“We’ve learned a lot in our four years here, and we’ve just tried to apply it the best we could,” Overton said. “I think the seniors before have taught us well, and I think we’re some pretty good leaders, we might even be the best.”

Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at kevinschaeffer@temple.edu.

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