Owls’ setters compete to fill a vital role on offense

Temple University volleyball has three new setters trying to take over the starting spot this season.

Magdalena Rogalska, freshman setter, runs to hit the ball during a practice at McGonigle Hall on August 23. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As the focal point of the offense, Temple University volleyball setters are honing in on new plays and styles in hopes of finding their rhythm with the team. 

When a libero serves the ball to their opponent, the setters are reading the defense and preparing to align themselves with the ball, so the outside hitter can score with a strike over the net.

Due to the loss of former setter Tyler Lindgren, who graduated in the spring, head coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam had to reconfigure his group, he said.

“[Lindgren] was not just an upperclassman who graduated last season, but also a leader for us on the court and off the court,” Ganesharatnam said. “It’s not easy to fill that hole, but I think we have three really talented setters.” 

In addition to returning freshman setter Nikki Shimao, two freshman setters from Poland, Magdalena Rogalska and Patrycja Zielińska, joined the Owls’ program this season. The three players could impact Temple’s offense by assisting in more scoring opportunities.

“It was really important for our setters to come in and really train them well, because they had big shoes to fill,” said Team Captain Gem Grimshaw, a junior outside hitter.

Patrycja Zielińska, freshman setter, watches the Temple volleyball team run drills at a practice on Aug. 23. | ALLIE IPPOLITO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Setters are focused and agile in their movements to anticipate exactly where the ball should go on the opponent’s side.

Shimao started her volleyball career as a setter in Hawaii, where she led ‘Iolani School to two state titles. 

Last season, Shimao played defensive specialist and libero. Now in her second year with the Owls’ she’s cross training and learning a new role as a setter. Shimao believes she could follow in Lindgren’s footsteps, especially after working with Lindgren last season, she said. 

Shimao got under the ball quickly and was aware of ball placement against the University of Delaware on Aug. 27, where she had a single assist.

Zielińska, who started in all three games for the Owls, has totaled 14 digs, the first contact with the ball after an opposing team’s attacker sent the ball over the net, and 100 assists so far this season.

“The two freshmen [Rogalska] and [Zielińska] are doing a really good job,” Ganesharatnam said. “The work ethic is exceptional.” 

Rogalska, who played setter for 10 years on a club team in Poland, hasn’t made her collegiate start for the Owls yet, but could bring a high level of experience to the position group with her previous knowledge from playing overseas.

Zielińska and Rogalska connected when they met during the preseason and they have found comfort in one another, Zielińska said.

“We’re from the same country, but we never played against each other, so we met here, and I’m really happy we did,” Rogalska said. 

Rogalska admitted it’s hard to be far away from her family, but Zielińska helps her feel right back at home, she added.

“It’s really nice to have someone who speaks your language and can help you,” Rogalska said. “Especially in the same position, because then we can correct each other and understand each other.”

With the team carrying a few more players than normal due to an increase of games scheduled, a lot of the work comes down to repetition in and out of practice, Ganesharatnam said.

“They’re very coachable and they want to get better,” Ganesharatnam added. “I think we are on the right track.”

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