Temple University women’s volleyball went undefeated in the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing Cherry and White Challenge this weekend.
The Owls didn’t drop a set in their three games, improving their record to 9-0 on the year.
Temple began action Friday at McGonigle Hall with a 3-0 win against Radford University (4-5, 0-0 Big South Conference).
The Owls were able to take control quickly and win the first set 25-17.
While they didn’t drop a set, they were challenged throughout the second set where Radford took control early. The Highlanders led 9-7 but after a Temple timeout, the Owls scored two quick points to make it 9-9.
From there, the Owls went on an 11-1 run. Sophomore outside hitter Gem Grimshaw started the run from behind the service line when the Owls won 10 straight points.
“It was really important that run that Gem gave us at the service line,” coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said.
“When I stepped to the service line I knew we needed a run,” Grimshaw said. “The more you keep serving, and the longer you are there, you get more comfortable,” she added.
Junior Katerina Papazoglou led the team with 14 kills. The 6-foot 1-inch outside hitter came out with energy to spare, which she credited to the buzzing atmosphere inside McGonigle Hall for the Owls’ first home game of the season.
The win tied the program’s best start to a season, last achieved when the 1983 team started 7-0.
In their first match Saturday, the Owls played Columbia University (4-2, 0-0 Ivy League), winning in straight sets 3-0. Sophomore right side hitter Peyton Boyd led the team in 14 kills. She also added 5 blocks against a hard-hitting Columbia front line.
“Peyton is a tremendous talent,” Ganesharatnam said. “There are times she looks like a professional player.”
Boyd attributed her success to sophomore setter Tyler Lindgren, who led the team with 33 assists.
“I can’t do anything without my setter,” Boyd said. “She put me in really good positions so I had a lot of options open.”
In the last match of the weekend, the Owls got off to a blistering, 23-11 start against Lehigh University (5-6, 0-0 Patriot League), before weathering a run to win 25-18.
The second set was a different story. In a game marred by mental errors on the home side, the two squads went back and forth with five lead changes and 12 ties. The Mountain Hawks eventually managed to scrape out a 24-22 lead. However, Temple battled back on the verge of dropping their first set to tie it up at 24-24. Two kills from Papazoglou and an attacking error from Lehigh lead to a 27-25 Temple win.
“There were two balls that pretty much fell on the court between three or four players,” Ganesharatnam said. “Those are unacceptable situations, and that has nothing to do with skill set. So we addressed that and really focused on our attitude and our energy on stepping up, making places for the betterment of the team.”
The third set was more in line with how the Owls performed for the weekend, keeping Lehigh at arm’s length and winning 25-19.
Lindgren, who posted 35 assists against Lehigh, was named the Cherry and White Challenge MVP postgame.
Ganesharatnam said Lindgren set an example to the rest of the team with her demeanor, while also facilitating the flow of the offense.
“I think my role as a setter is just to be as consistent as possible and put my hitters in the best position,” Lindgren said. “It’s really a team effort, and assists don’t become assists until you have kills, they’re just attempts.”
Freshman middle back Kayla Spells and Boyd, who finished with 12 and 9 blocks respectively, were named to the All Tournament Team. Papazoglou led the team with 14 kills and added 11 digs and four service aces.
The inexperienced squad may have been “a little shocked” over their historic start to the season, said defensive specialist/libero Averi Salvador, but the Owls are not content to rest as conference play quickly approaches.
“Our conference has gotten so much better, and every game’s going to be a challenge for us,” Salvador said. “So I think we just need to be locked in and more focused.”
The team will go to Villanova on Thursday and Friday for matches against the hosting Wildcats and Princeton.
The Owls hope to make it a springboard for even greater accomplishments, Ganesharatnam said.
“I think it’s a reward for the hard work the players have put in since the beginning of this year,” Ganesharatnam said. “It think it’s additional motivation for everybody to keep working hard so we can stay on this path.”