The Owls still had to prove themselves.
Facing the nation’s No. 4-ranked team and Big East Conference leader Connecticut on Saturday, Temple wanted to show that it wasn’t the same team the Huskies shut out in back-to-back weeks at the end of last season.
The Owls got the message across, holding a two-goal lead against UConn at one point. But the No. 16 Owls couldn’t complement that with the win, losing 4-3 from two late goals in the regular season finale.
Temple had the motivation in it being senior day for goalkeeper Lizzy Millen, midfielder Nicole Kroener and forward Amber Youtz, along with a matchup against a rival that gave the team trouble in its inaugural year in the conference. Plus, there was the possibility of gaining the top seed heading into the Big East Tournament next weekend.
“We talked a lot about the game beforehand that we look at these big teams and we often think of them as, ‘They have this girl, this girl and they’re threats against us,’” Kroener said. “We talked about thinking of ourselves as a threat against them.”
“I think having that mentality going in, and just wanting to play as a unit, I think that really got us going,” the co-captain added.
For a majority of the opening half, the Owls had the upper-hand. They notched the first goal, coming by way of Youtz on a direct corner 7:23 in, her 26th of the season and the 68th of her career to tie her for third all-time in the program.
“We were really excited to prove ourselves this year coming off last year,” Youtz said. “We wanted to prove how much talent we had this year and I think we did come out with a lot of heart and we did score right away which is a good statement to make.”
UConn’s freshman forward/midfielder Casey Umstead tied it at one in the 14th minute, but was answered later in the 29th and 32nd minute by back-to-back goals from Temple’s freshman forward Rachael Mueller.
The Owls kept a 3-1 lead until junior midfielder Sophie Bowden made it a one-goal game off a corner with 47 seconds left before halftime.
UConn collected three corners in the first half, with the Owls’ defense disrupting two. Dating back to last season’s games against the Huskies, corner defense became a point of emphasis all week, especially with the Huskies being first in the Big East in goals off corner heading into Saturday.
“After last year and just scouting UConn, their corners were outstanding,” coach Amanda Janney said. “They were really dangerous on corners, and we knew that it was something we were worried bout.”
“The corner defense made a lot of big stops, which makes it even more disappointing that we didn’t come away with the win,” Janney added. “We stuck to the game plan, we did exactly what we were practicing and the team executed well.”
The Owls were outshot 12-4 in the first half, but thanks to strong defensive play from the midfielders and defensive backs, and goalkeeping from Millen, Temple was able to hold off UConn for the lead.
The second half was more of the same, but things fell apart in the last six minutes when freshman forward Charlotte Veitner tallied two-straight goals to give UConn the edge.
“UConn took a good timeout and turned it on,” Janney said. “Our defense had been playing great for 60 minutes, and then just a couple little letdowns and they were able to sneak in.”
“There is a reason they’re No. 4 in the country,” Janney said. “They’re talented, and have great forwards. They showcased that today, and it’s something for us to learn from. We’re just going to take it, move on and play better next weekend.”
The Owls, now the No. 3 seed in the Big East Tournament, will have a rematch with the second seed in No. 17 Old Dominion by then, playing in the semifinal of the Big East Tournament.
Temple lost to the Monarchs 3-2 on the road on Oct. 17, despite climbing back from a 2-0 hole. The semifinal game is set for Friday at 1 p.m.
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.