Volleyball announces fall schedule

Temple’s 2015 schedule is collection of tough conference and non-conference games, giving the Owls a chance to compete with some of the top programs in the country.

Coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said the Owls will be playing the most competitive schedule since his arrival four years ago, in an attempt to raise their Rating Percentage Index.

“We wanted an even stronger non-conference schedule than we did last year,” Ganesharatnam said. “Hopefully it will prepare ourselves for conference play.”

The Owls open up their season with the Temple Invitational on Aug. 28 and 29. Temple will host the University of Oregon, the United States Naval Academy and St. John’s University.

Oregon finished 12th in NCAA RPI in the 2014 season, while advancing to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.

A week later, Temple travels to New Jersey to take on Seton Hall University, Hofstra University and the University of Notre Dame. Hofstra and Seton Hall both earned bids in the NCAA tournament last season.

Temple will host the Cherry and White Challenge on Sept. 11 and 12, where they will play Duquesne University, the University of Montana and Binghamton University. The following week, Temple competes in the Big 5 Tournament with LaSalle University, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University.

Ganesharatnam said the Owls’ non-conference play will help them prepare to compete in the American Athletic Conference, which Ganesharatnam said is one of the top conferences in the country.

“The conference itself will be much tougher this year than this last year because many of the top teams got stronger this year,” Ganesharatnam said. “RPI wise, the conference is the sixth strongest conference in the country.”

Although The American was competitive in 2014, only Central Florida advanced to the NCAA tournament, losing in the first round.

Temple will host 10 of 20 conference matches. After missing an NCAA tournament bid by a slim margin, Ganesharatnam said the Owls need to make the most of their conference play,

“A lot of programs and a lot of teams are going to be after us,” Ganesharatnam said. “It is a new situation for us, so that is something.”

Overton earns conference honor roll selection

Sophomore middle blocker Kirsten Overton was named to this week’s American Athletic Conference honor roll.

Overton hit 48.8 percent during the weekend in wins against Tulsa and Southern Methodist, and also posted nine blocks against SMU. The two wins saw Temple (16-6, 7-3 The American) move into sole possession of third place in the conference. The Owls will travel to Cincinnati and Memphis this coming weekend.

Sydlik earns honor roll nod

After road wins at Houston and Tulane during the weekend, Temple setter Sandra Sydlik was named to the American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll Monday.

Sydlik averaged 11.71 assists per set during the weekend and amassed 41 assists against Houston and another 41 against Tulane.

The Owls dropped just one set in both conference matches over the weekend improving to 14-6 overall and 5-3 in The American.

Davis earns conference honors

Tyler Davis’ productive weekend helped earn her a spot on the American Athletic Conference weekly honor roll, the conference announced Monday.

The sophomore outside hitter led the way in both of Temple’s home conference matches during the weekend. Davis hit a season-high 46.9 percent in the Owls’ 3-0 win against Cincinnati on Friday, and also led the team with 16 kills in the 3-1 loss to Memphis.

She finished the weekend with a 35.5 hitting percentage.

Sydlik named to conference honor roll

After earning the Big 5 Invitational MVP award this past weekend, junior setter Sandra Sydlik was named to the American Athletic Conference honor roll Tuesday.

Sydlik averaged 11.75 assists per set, 3.38 digs per set, as the Owls did not drop a set over the weekend improving their record to 9-3.

Temple opens American Athletic Conference play this week with matches against Connecticut and East Carolina.

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.”

Volleyball releases schedule

When volleyball kicks off its recently released schedule, the Owls will be greeted with a potent slate of contests in the early going.

The team will kick off action with four tournaments in a month-long span before it sees American Athletic Conference competition.

The Owls will open the season at Syracuse University with the Syracuse Invitational, in which they’ll play Niagara and Syracuse on August 30, followed by Delaware State the following day.

The Owls will then return to friendly confines September 5 and 6, as they host the Temple Invitational with bouts against the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Princeton and Holy Cross.

The team will then head north to the LIU Brooklyn Invitational on September 12 , playing Northern Kentucky, hosts LIU-Brooklyn and Boston College. The last of the four tournaments is the annual Big 5 Tournament, in which the Owls will take on familiar foes in La Salle, Villanova and Penn September 19 and 20.

After an even 9-9 finish in conference play last season, Temple will open up its American schedule with four straight road matches against Connecticut, newly-added East Carolina, Central Florida and South Florida.

The Owls’ conference home opener is October 10 against Cincinnati.  The season will conclude with a home match on November 28 against Houston.

-Greg Frank

Volleyball continues homestand

The  volleyball team will host two American Athletic Conference matches this weekend, as the Owls take on Houston on Friday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m., and then face SMU on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 1 p.m.

“Both matches this weekend are going to be exciting and very competitive matches,” coach Bakeer Ganes said. “Two excellent teams are coming. Houston and SMU are both 3-1 in the conference. Both teams are very physical, physically gifted in many ways.”

Temple also sits at 3-1 in the conference and 11-4 overall so they want to prove that they belong at the top of this conference. The Owls were picked to finish seventh in the preseason but they are proving that ranking wrong so far this year.

Senior Gabriella Matautia leads the Owls and the entire conference with 4.22 points per set. She is also second in the conference in kills per set with 3.69. Sophomore libero Alyssa Drachslin is the team leader in digs with 4.11 digs/set. Junior middle blocker Jennifer Iacobini leads the team in total blocks with 48, and also leads the team with 18 service aces which rank fourth in the conference.

This is a young Temple team this year with only three seniors on the roster so a few freshmen have been called on to step up and play big time minutes. Caroline Grattan and Tyler Davis are answering that call, as they are both top four on the team in kills with just over 2 kills per set.

Ganes knows it will be a tough task this weekend with Houston and SMU but has confidence in his team.

“We again are going to under sized,” Ganes said. “It’s a great challenge and hopefully the atmosphere the same or even better than what we had against Memphis. We are looking forward to this competition this week. “

Owls drop Louisville match

Temple volleyball (10-4, 1-1) lost on Sunday against American Athletic Conference preseason favorite Louisville (6-6, 2-0), in four sets by scores of 25-21, 18-25, 16-25 and 16-25.

The Owls won the first set but couldn’t hold the momentum as they lost the next three. The match had a crowd of 2,565 on hand, the largest crowd Temple has played in front of since hosting Penn State in 2009.

Senior Gabriella Matautia led Temple with 13 kills, while sophomore Alyssa Drachslin was the team leader in digs with 16. Freshman Halle McCullough recorded a team-best five blocks for Temple.

Louisville got a lot of their points on block plays (15.5 on the day) which Temple could not rebound from.

Louisville picked up strength in the second set, as Temple fell behind in each and was unable to close the gaps against the Cardinals who advanced to the NCAA Second Round a season ago and finished at 30-4 overall.

Temple will be back at home next weekend against Memphis on Friday, Oct. 4 at 7:00 p.m.

Gabriella Matautia honored

Senior Gabriella Matautia has been named the Under Armour OwlSports.com Athlete of the Week for the week of Sept. 16. Matautia was also named to the American Athletic Conference Weekly Honor Roll.

After three solid matches this past weekend, Matautia was named to the Temple Invitational All-Tournament Team. She recorded her 1,000th career kill last week against Penn and has now totaled 1,051 career kills.

“Being able to get 1,000 kills in my four years is awesome, I am really glad I was able to break 1,000 kills,” Matautia said. “Yes, all the kills is nice, but I think the most important thing is that we are coming together as a team. The group that we have been playing with has been working, it helps that we have such a big block. Sandra [Sydlik] has been doing really well, and if we continue to work and get better it’s going to be great.”

Matautia, who has been the offensive leader in Temple’s 9-3 start to the season, recorded ten or more kills in all three matches for the week as Temple went 2-1 at its own tournament. Mautatia is averaging 3.90 kills per set which is tops in the American Athletic conference.

As conference games kickoff this weekend against Cincinnati (0-13) on Friday and Louisville (6-4) on Saturday, Mautatia knows her and the teams play needs to get even better.

“We are up and down too much, we need to stay at one level, as well as reducing errors and executing what we need to get done,” Matautia said. “We are excited for the challenge of conference play to see where our team is at.”