Temple will play for the Big East Championship on Sunday.
The No. 16 Owls defeated No. 17 Old Dominion 2-1 in the semifinal Friday afternoon, and will get a rematch against No. 3 Connecticut in the title game Sunday.
Friday was Temple’s first postseason win since 2011, and its first as a member of the Big East.
“We’ve had a great season so far,” junior defender Taylor Shronk said. “To get past this first round, the semifinals and go onto the championships it really shows all the hard work that we put in before and during the entire season, and it’s paying off right now. We’re all very excited for Sunday.”
The Owls previously fell to the Monarchs 3-2 on the road on Oct. 17. They fell into a 2-0 hole early in the first half, but their comeback to tie it up right before halftime fell flat when the lone second-half goal from Old Dominion’s redshirt-junior Caitlin Walsh made the difference.
Friday’s game echoed a similar start, with the Monarchs’ freshman forward Victoria Rezette taking in a pass from Walsh at the top right of the circle and redirecting it by redshirt senior goalkeeper Lizzy Millen for the game’s first tally.
“They scored the goal and we just shook it off,” sophomore midfielder Paige Gross said. “We came together and we said, ‘We’re not losing this. We’re not going home.’”
But that 1-0 lead lasted just over five minutes, when sophomore forward Katie Foran finished off a play put into motion by sophomore midfielder Paige Gross, who cut in toward the cage along the right sideline, with a defender on her, and got the pass out to Foran in front.
“Once we scored that first goal where Katie knocked the ball in, the whole momentum totally shifted,” Gross said. “We controlled [most of the game]. Toward the end it got a little shaky, but I think our defense took care of what they needed to take care of.”
Then, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half, the nation’s top scorer struck.
Senior forward Amber Youtz took in an outlet pass from junior defender Taylor Shronk from the midfield, carrying the ball to the top of the circle, then fired a shot on the reverse stick by redshirt junior goalkeeper Megan Hept to put Temple up, 2-1.
The bulk of the responsibility fell on the defense from there.
The Owls had one shot and no penalty corners for the entire period compared to Old Dominion’s seven shots and six corners.
“They had a lot of offensive pressure on us,” Millen said. “Probably more than we actually did, but the thing is we just capitalized on the moments that we did have, and our defense really held strong and played together as a unit.”
“We just shut them down as best we could,” Millen added. “Of course they still scored, but we really came together after that goal, and bounced back and held strong the rest of the game. It was really nice to see.”
Behind three saves from Millen, which all came in the second half, and defensive play that disrupted all six corner attempts, the Owls managed to hang on for the right to play in at least one more game.
“The defense played amazing,” coach Amanda Janney said. “Taylor Shronk had her strongest game all season, Lizzy had an amazing game today. I think the defense held strong through all the pressure [Old Dominion] had. They’re a great team and they have some excellent individuals on their team and they did a good job to get some attack so it’s nice to see our team contested on defense and come out strong and make some huge tackles today.”
“We controlled [most of the game]. Toward the end it got a little shaky, but I think our defense took care of what they needed to take care of.”
The championship game is set for Sunday at 1 p.m. The Owls lost to UConn 4-3 in the final minutes of the regular season finale last Saturday.
“To win a championship you have to play the best,” Janney said. “We want to see UConn again. We know we should have beat them the last game and our team just has that heart and that grit that we want we want to make sure that we know we’re the better team.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.