Before a weekday practice began, the volleyball team waited near the locker room in McGonigle Hall, laughing and talking about classes and plans to hang out after practice.
The atmosphere around the team is one of friendship, and that atmosphere is what drew junior setter Kyra Coundourides to Temple. While being recruited away from Virginia Tech, the constant interaction with her future teammates made her transition from rural Blacksburg, Virginia to Philadelphia easier.
Coundourides has enjoyed her time exploring Philadelphia, after seeing Cleveland as a kid growing up in Brunswick, Ohio.
“There is always something going on, and I’ve just been trying to learn about the city,” Coundourides said. “The city has so much history, and it’s really fun just exploring it and learning as much as you can.”
City living isn’t new to sophomore middle blocker Iva Deak. Deak grew up in Zagreb, Croatia, the nation’s capital where more than 690,000 people reside. International students, especially from non-English speaking countries, can have a tough time transitioning to the United States. But at Temple, Deak has the benefit of playing with junior outside hitter and Serbia native Dara Peric. The two have a similar cultural background and speak the same language, which Deak said has helped.
“The transition to Iowa was definitely the harder transition, coming [to Temple] reminded me of home, being in the city and having everything close,” Deak said. “It’s been easier communicating with Dara, we speak the same language, and we have a level of trust since I’ve come here.”
Another factor that was in the decision to transfer was the educational opportunities. Both Deak and Coundourides thought coming to Temple would help both on and off the court.
“I thought Temple gave me the best chance to get the best education I could in the United States,” said Deak, a former second team all-academic middle blocker at Iowa Western Community College. “I came to America because it gave me a chance to continue my volleyball career, but it has also given me a chance to look at my future after volleyball.”
This season has been different for coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam, who only brought in one freshman recruit after graduating four seniors. Instead, Temple is relying on the production of transfers like Deak and Coundourides.
Deak has been a disruptor as a middle blocker. She is third on the team in blocks with 44, and she has added nine service aces. She is sixth among American Athletic Conference players in hitting percentage and fifth in blocks.
Coundourides established herself as the starting setter for the team, leading the team in assists with 465 on the year. She is third among players in The American in assists. Coundourides has 19 kills, and has also added 111 digs, tied for third.
“I’ve felt like the coaching staff has had a lot of confidence in me, which has given me a boost,” Coundourides said. “I still go out there playing one match, one set, one point at a time. We hold each other accountable and that helps us play better as a team.”
Kevin Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.