Despite finishing 4-14 last year, the women’s soccer team enters the new season full of optimism.
“All we want is a chance to prove to everyone that even after last year we can contend,” senior forward Kelly Lare said.The Owls opened the season strong, playing to a scoreless tie and a 3-2 victory last weekend while competing in the Hilton Inn Garden Classic, held in Flagstaff, Ariz. Both games headed into double-overtime, with junior Cori Gallagher scoring the game-winning goal in the Owls’ win over Eastern Washington.
Starting this season off well, especially on the road and out of the conference, is one of the keys to having a successful year, coach David Jones said.
“In order to meet our goal of making the Atlantic Ten [Conference] tournament,” Jones said, “we really need to play a .500 non-conference schedule and go at least 6-5 in the A-10.”
The latter part could prove to be difficult as the Owls, who finished 1-8 within their conference one year ago, open the A-10 schedule against last year’s top six teams.
“We’ll know pretty quickly where we stand after those games,” Jones said. “Luckily, we get Dayton, Charlotte and Saint Louis at home.”
The Oct. 5 match-up against the Billikens could prove to be one of the more challenging games of the season. Saint Louis defeated the Owls, 7-0, last year en route to a No. 1 seed in the A-10 tournament and an eventual invitation to the NCAA Tournament. The Billikens are led by 2006 A-10 Rookie of the Year Julia Bradenberg, a preseason All-Conference pick.
Temple counters with junior forward Charisma Wright, an A-10 All-Rookie selection in 2005 and one of the team’s leading goal scorers. Wright is looking to get back to her 2005 form, when her 10 points ranked second on the team.
“I definitely want to improve my goal scoring. Period,” Wright said. “I need to get the ball in the back of the net.” With a core group of starters coming back, Jones says offensive and defensive communication should go smoothly.
“I definitely feel that our chemistry will translate into improved play on the field,” he said. “As long as we can stay healthy and avoid any major injuries, we can go 11-strong with no letdown from the six to seven players coming off the bench.”
Jones is also looking for increased production from junior forward Wendy Halina.”We moved Wendy up top, because we really believe she can score a lot of goals and have a breakout season to complement someone like Charisma,” Jones said.
Thus far, the move has worked. Halina scored a goal in the Owls’ win over Eastern Washington on Sunday.
Jones says a stronger offensive attack means the defense simply needs to keep games close.
“If we can just stay in the game, we’ll have a chance to either come back or hold on at the end,” he said.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.