Senior volleyball player to return after knee injury

Irem Asci missed most of the 2017 season, including Temple’s two postseason matches in November.

Graduate outside hitter Irem Asci serves to Boston College during the Owls’ home-opening win on Sept. 8 at McGonigle Hall. | CHIA YU LIAO / FILE PHOTO

Irem Asci did not want to end her volleyball career with a painful memory.

The senior outside hitter tore her left ACL on Sept. 29 against Tulane, which caused her to miss the rest of the season. Asci was granted another year of eligibility in December and will play the 2018 season as a graduate student.

“I’ve been playing since I was in first grade,” Asci said. “It’s a huge part of my life. I wanted it to end happily, so I’ll be remembering volleyball in a good way. I feel like if I would’ve gone out with an injury, it would’ve been sad for me.”

Before her injury, Asci played in 11 matches. She accumulated 90 kills, 75 digs and seven aces. Asci led the team with 19 kills and three aces in Temple’s 3-1 loss to Villanova on Sept. 15.

Asci said being injured was hard for her because it occurred toward the beginning of her senior season. She entered the year coming off a season in which she recorded 504 kills, which is the third-highest single-season total in program history since 2008.

Asci said she underwent ACL surgery about a month after her injury and had an expected recovery period of six to nine months. Now, she’s at the six-month period of her recovery, and she expects to be fully recovered by the end of July.

Asci spent her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before transferring to Temple. Asci earned American Athletic Conference first-team honors in each of her first two seasons at Temple. In her volleyball career, Asci has 1,386 kills, 1,063 digs and 94 aces.

While she was injured, Asci missed Temple’s two matches in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship in Morgantown, West Virginia. Temple beat Campbell University, 3-0, in the first round on Nov. 28 before it lost to West Virginia University, 3-0, in the second round on Nov. 29.

Though she didn’t play, Asci said she was more excited than sad, because it was the first time the team made it to the postseason in 15 years.

“I got to see how the postseason works,” Asci said. “Of course, it was hard to watch and not being able to do anything. I thought it was a really good experience for me to see it from the sideline. Hopefully, we’ll make it next year, so I’ll be able to play.”

Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said Asci’s experience will help the team, especially because it mostly features freshmen and sophomores.

Asci will be a graduate student alongside the Owls’ four seniors. The other seniors are defensive specialist and libero Mia Heirakuji, middle blocker Iva Deak, middle blocker Carla Guennewig and setter Hannah Vandegrift.

Temple will add five incoming freshmen — right side hitter Peyton Boyd, outside hitter Gem Grimshaw, middle blocker and right side hitter Xeryah Salanoa, setter Tyler Lindgren and outside hitter Miray Bolukbasi. The other four players on Temple’s roster are sophomores, including redshirt outside hitter Dana Westfield. Temple doesn’t have any juniors on its 2018 roster.

“It means a lot for us to have Irem back to provide leadership on the court and off the court,” Ganesharatnam said.

“She’s a big part of our offense,” Ganesharatnam added. “She’s a really good all-around player. She does a good job controlling the ball with the first touches. She does a really good job reading the play and playing some good defense.”

Asci will graduate this week with a bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. After she graduates, Asci will enroll in a master’s program at Temple for two years. Asci was accepted into a program that starts this summer for conducting research on Alzheimer’s Disease.

Asci said she is excited to have another year of NCAA eligibility to return to Temple.

“That process when we were waiting to see if I’ll be able to redshirt or not was stressful for me,” Asci said. “To able to know that I’ll be able to play again is pretty relieving. I’m so happy that I’ll be with the team again for another year.”

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