Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said he could feel a different kind of energy from the team going into Temple’s second-round match in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
Temple was preparing to take on host school West Virginia University last Wednesday night. The tournament field was already down to 26 teams from the original 32 after play on Nov. 28.
“We were very excited to be in the second round,” Ganesharatnam said. “If you want to compare it to the NCAAs, it’s like being in the Sweet 16. So that was a great accomplishment for the team and the program.”
But the Owls’ emotions may have gotten the best of them. The Owls were eliminated from the NIVC after losing to the Mountaineers in three sets.
Temple (20-10, 15-5 American Athletic Conference) got swept for the fourth time this season.
“The team really wanted to do well, and I think they wanted to work hard to win,” Ganesharatnam said. “Sometimes when you want something too bad, you can tighten up a little bit and maybe not perform at the highest ability. The willingness to perform well was there and the team never gave up, but I think that’s what happened.”
The three other teams that swept Temple — Colgate University, Central Florida and Wichita State — also earned postseason bids. Colgate lost in the first round of the NIVC, Central Florida lost in the second round and Wichita State advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Temple stayed competitive against West Virginia in a close first set, but it couldn’t come away with the win. Ganesharatnam said losing the first set gave the Mountaineers an imposing confidence for the rest of the match.
The matchup between Temple and West Virginia was the only second-round match between two teams that ranked in the top 10 of the Ratings Percentage Index of the teams in the NIVC.
Temple had the seventh-highest RPI of the 32 teams in the NIVC at No. 76. West Virginia had the fifth-highest RPI at No. 72.
Senior middle blocker Janine Simmons, who had eight kills and a block in the loss to West Virginia, said the team felt confident about playing in the tournament.
“We knew going in we would be one of the top seeds, so we theoretically had a good chance,” Simmons said.
The University of North Texas had the highest RPI in the NIVC at No. 47. Alabama A&M University held the lowest RPI at No. 312.
Despite Temple’s high RPI ranking compared to the rest of the field, Ganesharatnam stressed from the beginning of play that Temple should take the tournament one match at a time.
“There are some really good teams in the NIVC with some really good RPIs and really good coaches,” Ganesharatnam said. “It really shows you the depth of this tournament.”
Although the Owls couldn’t advance past the second round of the NIVC, Ganesharatnam said he is proud of the season’s outcome.
Temple won 20 matches or more for the fourth season in a row and reached a postseason tournament for the first time since 2002. Ganesharatnam hopes to continue the positive trend for the coming years.
“For the last four years, [the seniors] have been a constant part of the progression of this program and for them to finish their college career with postseason play, it’s the greatest reward that we could’ve possibly given them,” Ganesharatnam said.
“The goal is to be in postseason play on a regular basis and to have the opportunity to host and bring postseason play on campus,” he added.