Temple University volleyball started off its 2020-21 season with one goal: make The American Athletic Conference Tournament for the first time in program history.
Temple started the season with four straight wins and finished with an overall record of 11-6 and a 4-4 record in conference play, which earned them a bid to the AAC tournament, where they lost in the championship game to the University of Houston on April 2.
They earned their first winning season since 2017 and an AAC tournament bid by improving their serve receive and relying on their starters to produce strong statistics on offense.
“It has definitely been a different season, but I think everyone is just happy to be able to play,” said junior setter Tyler Lindgren.
A serve receive is the first hit a team makes when their opponent serves the ball over the net.
“Once we kind of reduced [opponents’ offense] a little bit, it helped us to get into a rhythm on serve receive and also on offense, which helped us get back that set,” said head coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam.
After Temple improved its serve receive they gained control of the ball more often and stayed aggressive on offense.
In 2019, Temple struggled with their serve receive, which led to them finishing 12-15 overall and 3-13 in the conference, Ganesharatnam said.
“A couple things we wanted to do better, last time it was passing and we really wanted to put some pressure on with our serves to win that serve and pass game,” Ganesharatnam added.
Because Temple controlled the ball more this season, their starters had more opportunities to score points.
Lindgren earned her first All-Tournament honors this season and ended the season with 696 assists and 169 digs.
Junior outside hitter Gem Grimshaw finished the season with 3.42 kills per set, 2.69 digs per set, 20 aces and 43 blocks. Grimshaw also recorded a season-high 20 kills during the AAC championship match.
“[Grimshaw] really grew into her position and grew throughout the season,” Ganesharatnam said. “She came into this tournament as a good player, but she is leaving it as a star.”
Like Grimshaw, junior outside hitter Miray Bolukbasi was a top contributor on offense this season. She led Temple in kills with 223 and kills per set with 3.66.
“You just have to look at the stats and the way [Bolukbasi] has been playing so far, she’s been doing a great job, Ganesharatnam said.
Another starter who benefited from Temple’s better serve receive was freshman libero Falanika Danielson, who became the first freshman in conference history to win the 2020-21 Libero of the Year award.
Danielson finished first on the team in digs and digs per game with 327 and 5.27, respectively.
“Just those constant reps with my coaches and them just being there for me all the time, that really helped,” Danielson said.
With the season now over, the Owls are still proud of their accomplishments, especially making the AAC tournament, Ganesharatnam said.
“We wanted to make sure we represented our program and our university in the best way we possibly can,” he added.