The lacrosse team stood in the locker room after its 19-7 win against Butler University on Wednesday chanting, “I believe that we have won.”
“It’s like a huge dance party,” senior midfielder Morgan Glassford said. “It’s so fun. It’s amazing. It’s a great feeling after games.”
It was the 12th time this season Temple (13-2, 6-1 Big East Conference) could celebrate with the chant after a game, and it moved the Owls one step closer to their ultimate goal: making it back to the Big East championship.
The Owls took another step when they beat Vanderbilt University 11-10 on Saturday in Tennessee to clinch a spot in the four-team Big East tournament.
“It is just an amazing feeling and a remarkable accomplishment for this team,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “It’s a tremendous accomplishment.”
Before the season started, the team knew it could accomplish its goal. But after losing all but two starters, including their goalkeeper and leading scorer, the Owls also knew they would have to convince everyone else that they were capable.
“In the beginning of the year, we knew we were going to be a good team,” junior defender Nicole Latgis said after Wednesday’s game. “Now, we are 12-2 and no one saw that coming. To surprise everyone and build on that record would be amazing.”
With two regular-season games left, Temple is tied for second with the University of Denver and Georgetown University in the Big East standings. The Owls are tied with the University of Florida, the reigning champion, for the best overall record in the conference. The Owls received votes in Monday’s Inside Lacrosse poll.
The Owls were ranked No. 14 in the Ratings Percentage Index as of April 9. Florida, ranked No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Poll, is the only Big East team ranked higher. Temple plays Florida on Saturday at Howarth Field.
The Gators, No. 13 Denver and Georgetown will join the Owls in the Big East tournament.
What was seen as Temple’s biggest weakness coming into the season is now one of their greatest strengths. Players who saw limited minutes in 2016 are now some of the team’s primary contributors.
“We are a lot of hard workers,” Latgis said. “A lot of players on this team haven’t had a chance to prove that before because we had such an older team. This year, everyone has secretly worked their butts off behind the scenes compared to previous years and they are coming out even stronger.”
Latgis played in eight games in 2016, finishing the season with no ground balls and no caused turnovers. This season, she has played in all 15 games, typically marking the opposing team’s best offensive player. Latgis has collected 30 ground balls and leads the team with 25 caused turnovers.
Senior attacker Carly Demato and junior attacker Nicole Barretta both scored six goals and had one assist last year. This season, Demato is the Owls’ second-leading scorer with 29 goals, and Barretta is tied for fifth with 20 goals.
Graduate attacker Brenda McDermott earned Big East first-team honors last season and is on pace to do it again in 2017. She has already surpassed her goals and assists totals from last season, leading Temple in both categories. McDermott’s 65 points is tied for 17th-most in Division I. She also has hat tricks in six straight games.
“No one looks to do it all by themselves on the field,” Rosen said. “Everyone looks to do it together at times, and that makes for a more mature team down the stretch because we aren’t relying on one or two people to do it.”
The Owls have 16 different players with goals this season, 14 with assists and 20 who have recorded draw controls. Redshirt-freshman goalkeeper Kelsea Hershey and freshman Maryn Lowell have both seen time in net, giving up a combined 169 goals with a combined 122 saves. Temple is in the top half of the conference in goals against average.
Eight of Temple’s 13 wins have been decided by a margin of two goals or fewer, including an overtime win against Marquette University on March 25 and comeback wins against Cincinnati and Villanova on April 5 and 8.
“We do the extra everything,” Glassford said. “We are out before practice, we stay after practice, we have film sessions, we meet with the coaches, we just do everything extra and there is so much commitment from everyone.”
“They come every day happy to play and happy to practice,” Rosen said. “Their positive attitude every day with the energy to practice the way they do every day has been the key to our success this year.”
Tessa Sayers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SayersTessa.