As a freshman starting at a new school overseas, Dara Peric said she still expected to thrive in her new role.
The freshman outside hitter has started 19 of Temple’s 22 matches and has at least nine kills and nine digs in seven consecutive contests.
As an outside hitter, contributions in both statistical categories are expected. But for Peric, who played libero in Serbia, helping on defense comes naturally.
“I have always been expected to play good defense,” Peric said. “That’s what [coach Bakeer Ganes] relies on me to do.”
However, with the team having lost two of its better offensive talents from a year ago in Gabby Matautia and Elyse Burkert, offense was a primary focus for Peric coming into the season.
“I was expecting to be an offensive player because we don’t have that one dominant player anymore,” Peric said.
Whether it’s on an offense or defense, Peric said she has been thrilled with the opportunity given to her as a freshman.
“It feels great honestly,” Peric said. “As a freshman and an international one, I didn’t expect to be a starter right away. But I was really excited because all of the hard work that I put in during the preseason paid off.”
Ganes indicated he has high expectations for anyone playing outside hitter and Peric is no exception.
“The outside hitter is a position where she should be the most skilled player on the court,” Ganes said.
To have a freshman at this position indicates Ganes entered the season with a lot of confidence in Peric and her ability to play above her age as a freshman.
“She was a very important recruit for us,” Ganes said. “We knew how good she was when we recruited her. But it certainly helps that she came in and adjusted very well and right away.”
Hitting percentage up
One team aspect that has helped earn Temple’s 7-3 start in American Athletic Conference play has been its hitting percentage. The Owls entered the weekend hitting 25.8 percent on the season, good for second in The American. Outside hitter Tyler Davis has posted double-digit kill numbers in six of Temple’s previous seven matches, and capped her weekend with a season-high 26 kills on Sunday.
“I think it’s really important to play very efficiently,” Davis said.
Of late, Davis has been Temple’s best hitter and contributed her success toward being able to familiarize herself well enough with the opposition before the match.
“I think recruiting the teams really helps because then we know where they’re going to be on defense,” Davis said.
Ganes, in his fourth season at Temple, said the team’s high hitting percentage is nothing new.
“I think we’ve always been a good offensive team,” Ganes said.
The Owls’ two highest hitting percentages came against Cincinnati in the conference home opener in which they hit 39.6 percent, and 47.1 percent last week at Tulane.
“It takes pressure off of us as a team if we can execute on offense,” Ganes said.
Hitting dominance continues
Despite a road-heavy start to the season, Temple has capitalized on its opportunities at home in McGonigle Hall. The Owls are 6-1 this season at home after weekend wins against Southern Methodist and Tulsa. Additionally, only two of the six wins went to five sets.
The Owls will be on the road this weekend against Memphis and Cincinnati before returning home for four straight matches in McGonigle.
Greg Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @G_Frank6