Irem Asci hobbled through the corridor next to the McGonigle Hall court on crutches after Friday’s practice.
The team lost the senior outside hitter and two-time American Athletic Conference first-teamer to a torn ACL in the first set against Tulane on Sept. 29. This isn’t the first time the team has dealt with injuries. The Owls (8-6, 4-2 The American) have constantly been forced to shift their lineups due to players’ lingering injuries, coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said.
This past weekend was no different.
Asci missed matches against East Carolina and Cincinnati on Friday and Sunday and will seek a medical redshirt, Ganesharatnam said. Senior outside hitter and co-captain Dara Peric also missed both matches after suffering a concussion earlier in the week. Two other players have had concussions this season, Ganesharatnam said.
The Owls returned nine letterwinners and five starters from last year’s 22-win squad. Injuries to multiple players, however, have hindered Temple’s ability to showcase that strength consistently.
The Owls have been hovering near the .500 mark for most of the season. Temple started the season with a 1-3 record before going on a three-game winning streak. The Owls dropped their next two matches against Villanova and Wichita State but followed that with another three consecutive wins.
“It’s pretty rare that you have such a big group that has been together for a while, but all season long we’ve been a little unfortunate with injuries,” Ganesharatnam said. “That’s why winning is so hard. Even if you have the talent, even if you have the experience, even if you have the IQ, there’s a lot of things that have to come together that you can’t control. One of them is staying healthy.”
Over the weekend, Temple lost to East Carolina 3-1 and beat Cincinnati 3-1 on Sunday.
Despite the Owls’ ongoing injuries, the team has stayed mentally tough and is still finding ways to win by communicating on the court and working on different sets in practice, Ganesharatnam said.
One of the best characteristics Ganesharatnam sees in his players is their ability to adapt to new situations. When senior setter Kyra Coundourides didn’t play against Villanova on Sept. 15, junior setter Hannah Vandegrift played all four sets of Temple’s loss in her place. Vandegrift had her first double-double of the season with 39 assists and 10 digs at Villanova’s Jake Nevin Field House.
The Owls might have to play with a different lineup this weekend during its Friday match against South Florida and Sunday’s contest against Central Florida. Peric is expected to return to the lineup either this weekend or the following week, Ganesharatnam said.
Another characteristic Ganesharatnam likes is his team’s ability to play as a unit rather than expect one player to dominate.
Senior outside hitter Izzy Rapacz agrees. Even though every player brings a special skill set to the team, it doesn’t matter if the team doesn’t “find the glue,” she said.
“Working together is the talent that we have,” Rapacz said. “Even though we might be talented individually, that doesn’t win games. I think it took those losses for us to realize that we really need to work and click as a team.”