After playing 10 games on the road to open the season, the Owls will return to McGonigle Hall to begin an eight game home stand.
“I think we’re really looking forward to being home, because it feels like we’ve been gone for a year,” second-year coach Bakeer Ganes said after the team’s loss to Miami University of Ohio at the Miami (OH) Invitational.
Temple hasn’t played a match in the comforts of its home court since November of last season. For the next three weeks the Owls will play eight games at home, including three in the Temple Invitational this weekend and four matches to start the Atlantic 10 Conference season.
Ganes said he is hoping that the recent Summer Olympics in London, and the coverage that volleyball received, especially from the likes of sand court duo and three-time Olympic champions Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings, for those two weeks, will help spur larger crowds to come to the team’s matches.
“I think [poor attendance would be] a shame because of the publicity volleyball had in the Olympics,” Ganes said.
The Owls are coming off the Miami (OH) Invitational, losing their final match against the host team on Saturday, Sept. 8. In the past two weekends, Temple has won the Big 5 Tournament and four of its six matches, putting its record at 6–4.
Now the Owls are hoping to carry that momentum into the home stand, starting with a Wednesday night match against the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
The focus for the team in practice this week will be fine-tuning the details of the game, senior libero Chelsea Tupuola said.
“We’re going to most likely focus on the little things like fundamentals,” Tupuola said. “The little things is what hurt us this weekend [against Miami (OH)].”
After the home opener, Temple immediately turns its attention to the Temple Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The school will host Central Connecticut, Cornell and Navy.
Temple didn’t win its tournament last year, and while any team wants to win every game they play, they are focused on improving match by match. The Owls hope to find out just what kind of team they are throughout those three games.
“I’m looking forward to that tournament,” Ganes said. “I think it’s going to be a really good indicator for us how we’re going to hopefully perform in the conference.”
As soon as the Owls finish the tournament, their sights will turn toward the A-10 schedule. The Owls will host Rhode Island, Fordham, Xavier and Dayton before hitting the road once again.
Ganes believes it was important to keep the Owls at home following the tournament to start the conference schedule. It allows the team to stay focused and healthy, he said.
“That’s the reason we scheduled the home tournament, because I wanted to be at home before we start conference [play], because I think it’s less draining on the body,” Ganes said. “The girls get to sleep in their own beds.”
Temple hopes that starting their A-10 season at home will give them a good start on that part of the season. Last year the Owls finished near the bottom of the conference and are hoping an early stretch of home games will help them improve on what was a rough season.
“It’s going to be really important, especially with the two teams that we start with, Rhode Island and Fordham,” Tupuola said. “This team is totally different attitude-wise, and we know that we have to focus one match at a time and take it slow and not try to do too much.”
But the squad isn’t rushing things. As much as they are looking forward to a long stretch of games in McGonigle, they are focused on playing one game at a time.
“We want to get better as a program and as a team,” Ganes said. “I don’t want to look forward to our conference games or the tournament because we haven’t even played NJIT yet.”
“Especially with the type of team that we have, we have to take it one game at a time,” junior outside hitter Elyse Burkert said.
For now, the Owls will take it match by match, enjoying the chance to sleep comfortably at home and not on a 10-hour bus ride.
Jake Adams can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @jakeadams520.