Early tournaments help lessen travel burden for volleyball

With the volleyball season roughly a month away, the team will get ready to embark upon a series of weekend tournaments before the conference schedule begins Sep. 24 in Storrs against Conneticut.

Temple will play four tournaments before their American Athletic Conference opener, the first of which is the Syracuse tournament Aug. 30 and 31.  The following weekend, the Owls will host the Temple tournament before playing the Long Island University-Brooklyn and Big 5 tournaments during next two weekends, respectively.

Coach Bakeer Ganes said one thing in particular stands out in regard to his team’s starting the season with four consecutive tournaments.

“Travel,” Ganes, entering his fourth year as Temple volleyball coach in 2014, said. “It’s much easier on the student-athletes.”

With several long trips on the horizon once American Athletic Conference play kicks off, the Owls’ early fixtures in the region allow Ganes’ team a chance to play without the usual dose of wear and tear.  However, the early weekends involve three matches in two days, which can take its toll.

“It would be more ideal to play one match a day,” Ganes said, discussing the schedule’s opening portion.

However, the consistent play early on gives Ganes a chance to get a feel for what he has on the roster and the best way to utilize his players before facing American foes.

“We have four weekends to get ready for conference play,” Ganes said.  “It’s 12 matches, so we want to take advantage of ever match and figure out the best lineup and just take care of the fine-tuning.”

The Owls’ early schedule is similar to that of other schools in The American, though Ganes noted Central Florida hosted two tournaments before conference play started last season.

One may think a volleyball team playing three matches in two weekend days would cause fatigue issues. Ganes downplayed that potential concern, noting a deep roster helps him figure things out early in the season and avoid players becoming fatigued early.

“We try to have a good-sized squad so we can rotate kids through,” Ganes said. “It also allows us to find the best starting six we need when we start conference play.”

Thames finds suitor in Finland club

Natasha Thames is heading overseas, it was announced Monday.

The recent Temple graduate signed with Finland’s Kotka Peli-Karhut, a team that ranked second in the SM-sarja last year, for the 2014-15 season.

Thames, a forward, averaged 10.3 points-per-game and a team-best 7.2 rebounds-per-game as a redshirt senior during a rough 2013-14 season for the Owls. She also shot 51.5 percent from field-goal range and 69 percent from the free-throw line, averaging 31.5 minutes on the court.

Her career numbers average 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds in 24.3 minutes-per-game, with a 47.7 percent field-goal percentage and a 56.8 percent free-throw percentage.

Thames led the team in blocks last season with 23, and set the Owls’ record for most games played with the team with 134, after starting all 30 games in her final year.

Rowers take to the weight room for summer months

Rebecca Grzybowski is in Tennessee right now, but she is not on summer vacation.

Entering her third year as Temple women’s rowing coach, Grzybowski is coaching a summer program which features an under-23 light-weight women’s team from Vesper’s boat club on boathouse row at the U.S Rowing Club Nationals in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

But she is not the only one rowing out of boathouse row this summer, as Grzybowski said there are a few members on the rowing team rowing for clubs in the summer months.

While NCAA rules prevent the team to collectively practice during the summer period, between 10 to 15 women are voluntarily calling the ergometer room home before training resumes in September. Grzybowski said some novices, juniors and seniors, who have stayed back in Philadelphia, are working out in the weight room.

“Moira Meekes said she’s been here for three summers and said this is definitely the best summer she can ever remember in terms of people working hard, staying in shape over the summer and using the erg room,” Grzybowski said.

Grzybowski hopes the athletes staying home during the summer break are working out, as well.

As the summer holiday drifts away, Grzybowski said the team will meet during the first week of classes but will get back to its typical in-season routine around mid-September.

Six new recruits set to join men’s crew

With two departing seniors 2013-14, six new recruits will be joining men’s crew this season.

The recruits include a local coxswain and few from out of state like Rhode Island, Texas and New York, per assistant coach Brian Perkins.

After nearly two months of uncertainty with whether the program would continue, Perkins said much of the recruiting for the 2014-2015 season is still to be done.

“We are going to be doing a lot of our recruiting on campus when the semester starts,” Perkins said.

Although the team is yet to start their season, many rowers are spending their summer with rowing clubs on Boathouse Row.

Coach Gavin White said some of the rowers are logging time with Penn Athletic Club and Fairmount Rowing Association in preparation for the looming season.

White, himself, is also preparing for the upcoming season in a different way.

The longtime men’s crew coach, who underwent his second deep brain stimulator adjustment surgery in May, is now undergoing physical therapy. Although White said it is very demanding, he also said he has noticed some improvements.

“I am doing pretty well,” White said. “I am moving around a little better.”

White, 62, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2002.

His team will not officially meet until the first week of classes, prior to the start-up of training in mid-Sept

Highly touted recruit verbally commits to Owls

Per his Twitter, four-star cornerback Kareem Ali Jr. verbally committed to Temple Saturday, marking what is perhaps Temple’s biggest verbal commit of the summer.

Per reports, the Sicklerville, N.J. native has plans to graduate Timber Creek high school in December and enroll at Temple in January. Ali is also slated to participate in spring ball next year.

The announcement of his orally committing dropped after Ali participated in coach Matt Rhule’s football camp Saturday. Ali decommitted from Maryland, with which he verbally committed last month, in favor of Temple’s program.

Rivals.com lists Ali as a four-star recruit and the No. 28 ranked cornerback in the nation. He is the No. 7 ranked CB in New Jersey and received an invitation to play in the 2015 U.S. Army All-American bowl.

Ali amassed 31 tackles, broke up five passes and registered one interception for Timber Creek high school in 2013. He is the second prospect to verbally commit to the Owls this week alongside Haddonfield wide receiver/cornerback Jake Robinson.

Coach hoping additions provide offensive spark

It was a tale of two opposite seasons for women’s soccer last year.

After enjoying a non-conference schedule in which the Owls won their first four contests and finished 5-3-1, the Owls struggled through American Athletic Conference play, finishing 1-8 and bowing out of 2013 on a nine-game losing streak.

Coach Seamus O’Connor hopes his team will adjust to the competitiveness of one of what he feels is one of the nation’s strongest soccer conferences in The American.

“It was just such a transition from the [Atlantic 10 Conference], and being my first year coaching here,” O’Connor said.  “It’s a different kind of athlete [in this conference].”

The area that hurt the Owls the most last season was their offense. Scoring only 0.89 goals per game, Temple finished 259th in the nation in that category.

O’Connor said the recruiting for this fall was focused on fixing that exact problem.

“We added at least four starters that can come in on the attacking side,” O’Connor said.  “Our numbers were good defensively … but we just weren’t able to put some goals away.”

A large reason Temple enjoyed success on the defensive side of the ball was goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff.  The sophomore recorded seven shutouts and impressed with 15 saves in a 3-1 loss against Connecticut on Oct. 11.

“Shauni was, for me, easily the best goalie in the conference last year,” O’Connor said.  “I don’t know how she wasn’t selected, because her stats were phenomenal.”

Kerkhoff, along with the rest of the defense, will need to remain strong in a conference where, “every stinkin’ team is good”, O’Connor added.

In terms of where he would like his team to sit by the end of the season, O’Connor said improvement is the primary goal.

“We always want to get better,” O’Connor said.  “I don’t like putting a number on it, but it depends.  Like any other sport, how are we injury-wise?  How do we gel?

“Because each year is a new team … this year,” O’Connor added, “I feel there’s a lot more options and depth, so I do feel it’s going to be a better year for us.”

Heightened expectations surrounding men’s soccer

Last year, men’s soccer exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference, despite being picked to finish last in an American coaches’ preseason poll.

This fall, coach Dave MacWilliams’ expectations are far greater.

“Our goal is to make the NCAA [tournament],” MacWilliams said.  “I’m going to be very disappointed if we don’t.”

The Owls finished 10-4-4 last season, primarily due to a defense that finished No. 10 in the nation in goals allowed per game (0.67).

Though Temple will lose two of its four regulars on the back line this year, MacWilliams feels that a strong recruiting class, ranked 19th in the nation via Collegesoccernews.com, will help fill some of those holes.

“With the recruiting class we have coming in, we feel pretty confident that these guys are going to play well,” MacWilliams said.  “How long will it take for them to meet the standards that we set?  That remains to be seen.”

MacWilliams added that the most concerning factor going into this season will be his team’s youth. 19 members of Temple’s squad are freshmen and sophomores, while the Owls feature just six seniors.

Because of Temple’s success last season, many teams, especially those in the conference, likely won’t take the Owls lightly in 2014.  It’s all part of MacWilliams’ plan for putting his program on the map.

“[Louisville and Connecticut] have a history behind them,” MacWilliams said.  “We didn’t have that history of upper echelon teams, and that’s what we’re trying to build here.”

O’Connor hires former colleague as assistant

Former Chestnut Hill College men’s soccer coach Keith Cappo has been hired as women’s soccer assistant coach, per a Thursday press release.

Cappo ran Chestnut Hill’s men’s soccer program from 2010 to 2013, the first year in which he spent opposite Temple women’s soccer coach Seamus O’Connor, who led Chestnut Hill’s women’s team as head coach in 2010.

The two have a working history, as Cappo served under O’Connor as an assistant in the ’08 and ’09 seasons at Chestnut Hill, when O’Connor guided both the men’s and women’s programs as director of soccer. They also worked alongside each other when Chestnut Hill was still transitioning from NCAA Division III to Division II in 2008.

In 2010, Cappo served as O’Connor’s assistant  with Philadelphia Liberty FC, a West Chester, Pa. based member of the Women’s Premier Soccer League.

Prior to his tenure at Chestnut Hill, Cappo coached in various capacities at the high school level with Thomas Edison and Bishop Denis J. O’Connell in 2004 to 2006. He also coached with The Shipley School from 2006 to 2008.

As a player, Cappo started for William Penn Charter’s varsity team for three years before a four-year playing career at The Catholic University of America, for which he led as captain in his final two seasons.

Cappo will first see regular-season action with the Owls Aug. 22 when Temple opens the season on the road against Binghamton University.

Walker joins notable names on Maxwell Award watch list

P.J. Walker’s name graced the Maxwell Award watch list released Monday, joining 32 other quarterbacks of the initial group of 75 players to survive the initial cut.

Walker impressed as the starter in Temple’s final seven games as a true freshman last season, completing 60.8 percent of his passes with 20 touchdown strikes and eight interceptions. A 59-49 shootout defeat to Southern Methodist featured what was arguably Walker’s best performance of the season when the Elizabeth, N.J. native hit 26 of his 37 passing attempts with four touchdown passes and zero interceptions.

The rising sophomore marks the first Temple player on the Maxwell watch list since former running back Bernard Pierce made the extended list in October of 2011.

Walker joins a recognizable field of quarterbacks on the list, including UCLA’s Brett Hundley, defending national champion Jameis Winston of Florida State, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.

The list will be trimmed to semifinalists on Nov. 3 with a final crop of candidates determined Nov. 24.

Rick Brunson charged with attempted sexual assault, other charges

Former Temple men’s basketball standout Rick Brunson was arrested for attempted criminal sexual assault in a Life Fitness on June 25 in Vernon Hills, Ill., a Chicago suburb nestled approximately 40 minutes northwest of the city.

Per a Vernon Hills police report, Brunson grabbed a female employee of the fitness center and was subsequently charged with attempted criminal sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse and three counts of aggravated battery. According to the report, Brunson was held on $5,000 bail.

Ironically, the arrest was dated on the same day as a report that Brunson was a leading candidate for an assistant coaching position with Temple for the 2014-15 season. According to that report, Brunson was set to be introduced for the position at some point in July.

Brunson played under former Owls coach John Chaney from 1991-95, and has since worked in some capacity with three NBA clubs after his retirement from the NBA in 2006.

His son, Jalen Brunson, is a senior at Stephenson High School and is a notable Temple target. ESPN lists the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder as its No. 1 rated point guard in the country for the class of 2015.