Volleyball setter continues ‘to prove doubters wrong’

Kyra Coundourides tallied her 2,500th career assist on Oct. 1.

Senior setter Kyra Coundourides attempts to make a dig during the Owls’ 3-1 loss to East Carolina on Oct. 6 at McGonigle Hall. | MIKE NGUYEN / FILE PHOTO

At age 4, Kyra Coundourides didn’t want to play with toys anymore.

The senior setter used to go to her older sister’s volleyball practices at Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights, Ohio, and sit on the stage of the Catholic school’s gymnasium. Coundourides’ mother, Karol Coundourides, coached the team. She gave Kyra Coundourides a set of Polly Pocket dolls to keep busy with while the older girls focused on volleyball.

The Polly Pockets only piqued her interest for two practices before Kyra Coundourides’ attention moved to the action on the court below her.

“I want to do it too,” 4-year-old Kyra Coundourides constantly told her mom.

Seventeen years later, she reached the 2,500 career assist mark during the Owls’ match on Oct. 1 against Houston.

“It’s a big deal to me,” Kyra Coundourides said. “A lot of my teammates have been supportive, but the nice part is that thinking I have 2,500 assists also means that multiple people have added up to 2,500 kills. That’s probably the better thing to think about.”

Kyra Coundourides was about waist-high compared to her mother and six years younger than the girls on the team when she first practiced at Incarnate Word Academy. The age and size discrepancy, however, never stopped her from lining up and participating in drills.

A couple of years later, practices weren’t enough for Kyra Coundourides. She wanted to compete.

“Going to my sister’s tournaments, I got a little jealous,” she said. “So I asked my parents if I could try out, and my aunt actually ended up making a bet with me.”

The deal was that Kyra Coundourides could go to the tryout for the youngest club team, a 10-and-under squad. If she made the team, her aunt would pay for the first season. Kyra Coundourides’ kneepads were so big they looked more like shin guards. But she “never wanted to back down from a challenge,” Karol Coundourides said.

Nobody thought Kyra Coundourides would make the team.

She did.

“Kyra was always fearless and ready to prove doubters wrong,” Karol Coundourides said. “She was once told by another coach that, ‘It was a shame she had so much talent but wouldn’t make it onto the Division I level because she was too small.’ Kyra just kind of ate that up, and look at her now.”

Kyra Coundourides committed to Virginia Tech as a sophomore in high school. After playing two seasons with the Hokies in 2014 and 2015, she decided to transfer. Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam reached out to her and asked her to consider Temple.

After talking with her family, Kyra Coundourides decided to take a trip to Philadelphia in Summer 2016.

During her visit to Temple, Coundourides stayed with senior co-captain Dara Peric for two days. Peric said she could see Kyra Coundourides’ obvious passion for the sport.

“I remember she talked about volleyball a lot,” Peric said. “So that was definitely a good thing. It was one of the first things that stood out to me.”

In her first season with the Owls, Kyra Coundourides averaged 10.90 assists per set, which ranked second in the American Athletic Conference. She ended 2016 with 1,253 assists, a single-season program record. She was also the second player in program history to receive a College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-America selection.

In 15 games this season, Kyra Coundourides has continued her effective play. She is the primary setter and leads Temple with 540 assists. She is also second on the team with 152 digs.

For Kyra Coundourides, the off-court kinship she built with her teammates in Summer 2016 helped her integrate on the court.

“The chemistry really clicked when I got here over the summer and all of us sat down and bonded,” Kyra Coundourides said. “I don’t even want to call them team meetings because they weren’t team meetings. We all got together, had fun and started roasting each other. It was cool to not be volleyball players and just be friends.”

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