Sports

Last tourney spot still up for grabs

The team can clinch fourth place with a win against Rutgers.

The scoreboard hasn’t caused many smiles for the Owls this season, but it did against Cincinnati. 

Temple played one of its most convincing games of the season on April 13, beating its conference opponent 19-3 with 14 names on the score sheet on Senior Day.

That was the last home game of the season. Now, the Owls are looking to clinch the fourth and final spot in the Big East tournament in a road game against Rutgers on Friday.

After splitting a two-game road trip this past week with an 11-7 win against Marquette last Thursday and a 13-6 loss to Georgetown last Saturday, Temple is tied for fourth in the Big East standings with a 3-3 conference record.

Villanova, which also beat Marquette, also holds 3-3 conference record. Rutgers, meanwhile, sits in sixth with a 2-4 conference record heading into the final game against Temple next week.

The Owls are behind Connecticut (9-6, 4-2 Big East), Georgetown (8-7, 5-1 Big East) and Louisville (11-3, 6-0 Big East) ahead of them in the Top 3 spots.

Villanova will wrap up its regular season Saturday against Connecticut.

If the Owls beat Rutgers and Villanova loses, Temple is likely to clinch the fourth seed.

Should Temple and Villanova both finish with wins, there would be a three-way tie with the Owls, Wildcats and Huskies that would be decided by goal differential.

Temple’s best opportunity to make the tournament is by getting a win in the regular season finale, although there is a possibility for the Owls to make the tournament even with a loss.

“It doesn’t get any more exciting than going down to the last game of the season against a pretty good traditional rival,” Rosen said. “It’s the way you should get yourself into the tournament. You earn it. We know what the situation is, but we got to go in and earn our spot.”

Getting a win against Georgetown, which clinched the second seed in the conference tournament with a 5-1 record in the Big East, would have put Temple under better circumstances. But the prior game against Marquette was one that carried more importance.

“We knew that Marquette was a must win,” redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik said. “There was no ‘ifs,’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts.’ It really would have helped our chances to get a win against Georgetown, so we knew that the pressure was on for this weekend, but we also knew that mostly Rutgers is going to be a big game for us.”

Not only was the Marquette victory a conference win, it was Temple’s first win on the road all season. The Owls had lost all four of their previous road match-ups this season.

But going into this road trip, players said it didn’t seem to matter.

“We don’t really think about how we pay on the road compared to at home,” senior midfielder Lea Britton said. “It doesn’t matter where we are playing.”

After an opening day win against St. Joseph’s University, Temple dropped seven of its next nine games. After the UConn loss in the conference opener, however, the Owls have won three of their last five, topping Villanova on April 5, and then beating the Bearcats and the Golden Eagles last week.

A setback was a 15-6 loss to the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals, a game where the Owls were able to hold Louisville to four goals in the first half only to trail by two. The game slipped away from Temple in the second half though, when the Cardinals outscored the Owls 11-4.

Last Saturday, the team lost 13-6 at Georgetown. The Hoyas led 10-3 at halftime.

Heading into the game against Cincinnati, the team’s four seniors said they felt like they had to prove themselves to the conference after the loss to Louisville.

“We’ve just been building and building,” Rosen said. “The Louisville game was a tough loss, but we were getting a lot better heading into that game.”

Rosen said that there won’t be anything easy about Friday’s game, but the confidence is there.

“We’re going to take it one step at a time,” sophomore midfielder Nicole Tiernan said. “This week will be a good week of practice, we’re going to focus on the little things. It’s going to be a lot of pressure.”

But Tiernan said that the team will run with the opportunity.

“We know what we’re capable of,” senior attacker Jaymie Tabor said before the team’s road trip. “We’re ready.”

Nick Tricome can be reached at nick.tricome@temple.edu or on Twitter @itssnick215.

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