It’s been 12 years since the Owls have gotten off to a better start than this season.
Third-year coach Bakeer Ganes has guided his young team to wins in seven of its first nine games. Its third tournament of the year wrapped up this past weekend at the Palestra, where the Owls went 2-1 with wins against Weber State (4-7) and La Salle (1-10). They fell to host Pennsylvania in a tight five-set match in their last game of the Penn Invitational.
“Overall for the weekend I think we did a good job,” Ganes said. “The good thing is that we were able to play some freshmen and I think they played really well.”
Senior Gabriella Matautia led the Owls with two double-doubles over the weekend, recording 42 total kills in the three matches which led the entire tournament. She also had 29 digs and 9 total aces during play this weekend.
“I think the tournament went well for us,” Matautia said. “It showed us what we really need to work on. We definitely exposed our weaknesses this weekend, and it is crucial that we get better for conference play and of course this upcoming weekend when we host our own tournament.”
In both games on Sunday, Grattan narrowly missed recording a double-double as she had nine kills and 13 digs against La Salle and 16 kills and nine digs against Penn.
“My freshman year has been great thus far,” Caroline Grattan said. “It’s been really nice that I have gotten as much playing time as I have. To be honest, I did not think I would be getting so much play right out of the gates like I have, but I am definitely trying to embrace it as much as I can.”
Grattan said she realizes that this is a learning experience.
“We seem to be getting into a groove and realizing some of weaknesses and strong points of the team,” Grattan said. “Some of the comebacks have shown how resilient we are, especially that fifth game against UPenn… Even though we ended up losing that match, I think it was a really good learning experience for us.”
Matautia said she believes that the team chemistry has been great thus far this season but the communication on the court could be better.
“Our communication on the court is one of our up-and-down points,” Matautia said. “When we do get talking to each other, we seem to be more successful, but it is been hard for us to remain consistent with clear communication on the court. Our team chemistry has been great, though. We do good working together, we fight hard and you would think we have been together for multiple years because of how loose and free-flowing our team is.”
The team is adapting well with each other early. Ganes said he expected this and is not surprised the team is doing so well.
“I think we are doing as good as we thought we would be doing at this point in the season,” Ganes said. “I think it’s a great thing that we are off to a good start. Of course it is very important for the confidence. It shows all the hard work that the players have gone through in the summer and the pre-season. But it is not how we look like in the third week of the season, it’s how you finish. We are aware of that. I am not too worried about this stage of the program, but the main thing is that we need to progress as a team in a positive direction.”
The team’s solid start will help its confidence, with conference play starting on Sept. 27. The Owls will host the annual Temple Invitational at McGonigle Hall next weekend. They will play Hofstra, Brown and Delaware State.
“I felt like we have some players that played very well this weekend,” Ganes said. “There are certainly some things that we need to work on, not just because we lost the tournament. Regardless of wins and losses, we need to get better as a team so we can be ready for conference play in a week and a half.”
Rich Fogel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RBFogel26.