WRITTEN BY: GREGORY FRANK
Temple’ s volleyball program has made significant strides under head coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam. In 2014 and 2015, the Owls won 24 matches, which equaled the 2002 program record for wins. In both seasons, Temple beat every team in the American Athletic Conference at least once. The turnaround really began in 2012 when the team posted a 19-11 record after totaling just 12 wins combined in the previous two seasons.
So, where do the Owls stand entering the offseason before Ganesharatnam’s sixth season at Temple begins in the fall?
The Owls will graduate four seniors from the 2015 roster. Libero Alyssa Drachslin and setter Sandra Sydlik will be tough to replace. However, many of the Owls’ big hitters will be back in 2016, most notably Kirsten Overton and Irem Asci. Asci was a big get for Temple in the offseason last year as the outside hitter opted to transfer from Charlotte. The Turkey native led the Owls in kills in the 2015 season with 372, which was an average of 3.61 per set.
Outside hitters Tyler Davis and Caroline Grattan will likely need to provide consistent offense while Janine Simmons and Izzy Rapacz add depth up front. Dara Peric is one of the more well rounded players for Temple and will likely be in line for a bigger role in 2016 as well. Losing four seniors may seem like a lot, but reserves Kayla Yingling and Halle McCullough did not have the roles Drachslin and Sydlik did.
The next step for the Owls will be to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, a feat they have not accomplished since the 2002 season when they also won 24 matches. In 2014, Temple tied for second place in the American Athletic Conference, but conference champion Central Florida was the only team from the league to make the NCAA Tournament. In 2015, the Owls claimed sole possession of second place in the conference, but conference champion Southern Methodist was the only school from The American to make the postseason.
So how can Temple get there? The Owls will need to look for appropriate replacements at libero and setter in the offseason and whether or not those replacements are already on the roster is a question Ganesharatnam and his staff will have to answer this spring. However, with a lot of important pieces returning for 2016, expect Temple to be at the top of the conference standings yet again.