Sports

Field hockey looks to stay focused after No. 11 ranking

The Owls are ranked for the first time in 12 years, but they aren’t about to let it go to their heads.

When Temple takes the field on Friday against Delaware, they will do so as the 11th best team in the country.

The National Field Hockey Coaches Association released the new Division I Nationals Coaches’ Poll on Tuesday, revealing that the Owls had been ranked No. 11.

It’s a great milestone in the program’s history, as it earned its way back into the top 20 for the first time since Sept. 2001, doing so while transitioning into a more competitive conference.

However, the Owls aren’t about to let this go to their heads.

“We just need to keep working hard in practice and not get a big head about this,” senior midfielder/defender and co-captain Molly Doyle said. “It’s really nice to be ranked, but those rankings change weekly and we just need to know that and buckle down.”

“We know this is a big weekend and we need to win both games to maintain that and let everyone know that we are here to stay in the top 20,” Doyle added. “We’re going to be a team to reckon with this year.”

So far, Temple has done a pretty good job of making their case, even though the season is just four games old.

The Owls opened up with a 4-1 win against Ohio State, but loss to the No. 2 ranked Maryland Terrapins 5-1 the next day. Temple struggled to keep pace with Maryland in the second half, but showed potential when it was able to keep the Terrapins in a 1-1 tie for the majority of the first.

The second week of the 2013 campaign is when the Owls really started making noise.

They traveled to Happy Valley and shutout then-No. 6 ranked Penn State 3-0, making it Temple’s first win against the Nittany Lions since 1983. Then, a couple days later, Temple returned home to Geasey Field for a thrilling 3-2 victory in overtime against former Atlantic-10 rival Richmond.

After the win over Richmond, the possibility of a top-20 national ranking for the Owls was out there. Whether or not it was going to happen wouldn’t be known until Tuesday.

When Tuesday arrived, out came the coaches’ poll, which had Temple placed just one spot out of the nation’s top-10.

“I was definitely surprised,” Doyle said. “I thought we could have a chance at being ranked, but I thought it would be 15 or 16, not that we deserved to be that high (No. 11), but I think in the past we haven’t been recognized for all our talent. So, it was definitely really sweet for me.”

It’s sweet for coach Amanda Janney too, who is happy that the team is getting attention, but thought that it would happen much sooner.

“Coming from Wake Forest (where Janney played and graduated from in 1999), I had really high standards for where the team would be,” Janney said. “It really tested my patience.”

Temple lost only one senior at the end of last season–forward/defender Katie Briglia—leaving it with a group of experienced players for 2013. It’s been an element that has helped the team get off to such a strong start.

“[Coming into the season], I had a lot of confidence in our team just because I think we have a few really really strong anchors throughout our field, with [junior forward Amber Youtz] anchoring the front line and then [junior midfielder Nicole Kroener] and [sophomore forward/midfielder Alyssa Delp] anchoring midfield with [midfielder/defender and co-captain Mandi Shearer] and then [redshirt junior goalkeeper and co-captain Lizzy Millen] anchoring the backfield,” Doyle said. “We have a lot of experienced players, so only losing one senior last year really helped in that aspect.”

However, experience isn’t the only thing that has gotten the team through.  A heavier focus on fitness and greater dedication allowed Shearer to anticipate a good start, yet she was still surprised at how well the team has done in its first few games.

“Starting from last spring and the whole change in our attitude and our focus on fitness and just seeing how hard everybody was working this summer, I knew this season was going to be great,” Shearer said. “I’m a little surprised about how well we started off, but I knew we were going to start off well.”

It hasn’t taken long for the Owls to turn heads in the Big East, but there is still a lot of season left to play. Plus they have yet to play a Big East conference opponent, which won’t happen until Sept. 20 when they play Villanova.

There are still challenges that Temple will have to face and goals it still wants to accomplish.

“We have a long way to go,” Janney said. “We haven’t played a conference game yet and we haven’t won a championship.”

Nick Tricome can be reached at nicholas.william.tricone@temple.edu or on Twitter @itssnick215.

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