With a roster containing five freshman, Temple University’s volleyball team still has a lot of room to grow.
The Owls lost two of their three opening matches at the 2018 Hilton Penn’s Landing Temple Invitational at McGonigle Hall this past weekend.
“Obviously it is only the third game of the season so we have a lot of time and we have a lot of new faces out there,” said Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam. “I thought throughout this, think creating better energy early on in matches is what we need to work on moving forward.”
Temple faced the University of Rhode Island, a former Atlantic-10 Conference rival, in its opening match of the season. The Owls (1-2) won the match in four sets.
Temple won big in Friday’s first set, 25-15, before Rhode Island tied the match at one set apiece. In a thrilling third set, the Owls rallied from down 12-6 to win the frame, 31-29. Temple closed out the win with a close 25-22 win in the fourth.
Four of the Owls’ five freshmen played this weekend, and three played in every match. Freshman outside hitter Miray Bolukbasi started her collegiate career with a double-double of 13 kills and 15 digs. Freshman right side hitter Peyton Boyd had a solid debut tallying 10 kills, hitting .444 against Rhode Island.
“I think by midway through the second we really turned it on and started playing more as a unit,” said senior defensive specialist Mia Heirakuji. “Obviously we all expect every match to go 3-0, but it’s not always going to be that easy, and Rhode Island is a really good team so we have to be prepared for anything”.
Temple also fell to Loyola Marymount in the first match of Saturday. Despite a first set victory, the Owls dropped Saturday’s opener, 3-1, to LMU. Temple won the first set 25-18, but LMU rattled off three-straight wins, 25-18, 25-23, and 25-20 to close out the win.
“I thought right around the end of the second set we were in a good spot, but we didn’t really have the fight,” said senior setter Hannah Vandergrift. “We sort of lost some focus at times, and weren’t really getting into it, I thought we weren’t as focused in the early match”
Bolukbasi led the Owls with 12 kills, adding nine digs and three aces. Boyd had nine kills, hitting a team-high .412.
Sophomore outside hitter Katerina Papazoglou finished with six kills and no errors, while senior middle blocker Iva Deak had five kills. Vandegrift finished with 29 assists and five digs. Heirakuji led the defense with 11 digs, while outside hitter and graduate student Irem Asci added eight.
Temple took on Hofstra in their final match on Saturday. Despite a late comeback, the Owls fell in five sets, 3-2.
Ganesharatnam said he wanted to give the freshman class experience and test different lineups. He added he’s still determining whether the freshmen will see much of the court in the upcoming season.
“Obviously being new they still have a lot of work to do but I saw a lot of good things out of them,” said Ganesharatnam. “For them, it’s all about not getting too eager, and just going out there and executing and playing their game.”
“I’m so proud of them and all the hard work they’ve put in,” Heirakuji said. “I’m so excited for them, they’re all really talented, we have a lot to work on still but it is important that we guide them in the right direction.”