Sports

Players await Top-20 clash

The No. 16-ranked Owls will celebrate senior day with a conference rematch against No. 5 Connecticut.

Maiyah Brown was part of some good teams at William Allen High School, but never one that was able to win it all.

“We always made district playoffs but we never won the actual championship,” the Allentown, Pennsylvania native said.

The regular season of Brown’s freshman campaign at Temple is quickly coming to a close, and with the team holding a 13-5 (3-1 Big East Conference) record and a No. 16 ranking in NCAA Division I, her expectations are high for postseason play.

“I want to have a medal around my neck, have t-shirt and hat,” the forward, who started 18 games for the Owls, said. “I want to win. I want to be a champion.”

“Knowing that I have the possibility to do that just makes me want to work ten times harder,” she added. “Not only for me, but for my coaches, because they worked so hard to build the program to where we’re at now, and for our seniors, who also haven’t experienced a championship win. This is their last year so to help them get there would be great.”

Temple is set to make its second straight appearance in the Big East Tournament, but the Owls have one more conference matchup in their way before the postseason begins; a home game against No. 4 Connecticut (13-2, 4-0 Big East) on Saturday, a team that has won its last seven games.

“It’s just great preparation,” coach Amanda Janney said. “We couldn’t ask for a better game to get us ready for the Big East Tournament, that we want to be playing fast, aggressive hockey, and to play a team like UConn who is one of the best in the nation is just going to get us prepared.”

“Our last home game is going to be a huge game,” sophomore midfielder Paige Gross, who leads the team with 10 assists this season, said. “It’s senior day, we’re playing UConn, it’s our last game of the regular season and it’s just going to be an awesome atmosphere.”

Temple is coming off a weekend sweep, where it came up with back-to-back 4-0 shutouts against conference rival Georgetown on the road Friday, and Lafayette at home Sunday.

The Owls have won six of their last eight games since conference play began back on Oct. 3 with a 4-3 win in overtime against Providence, and haven’t lost back-to-back games all season.

A win against the Huskies in the regular season finale will put the Owls in a tie for first in the conference, should No. 17 Old Dominion wins its final conference game against Georgetown on Friday.

With each of the teams holding 4-1 conference records, and 1-1 records against each other, in that scenario, the tiebreaker will be determined by goal differential, which stands at six for the Owls heading into the weekend, three for Old Dominion and 12 for UConn.

If the Owls win by a goal differential of three or more, they’ll break free of the tiebreaker with Old Dominion and earn the top spot over the Huskies having beaten them.

Either way, Temple will be no lower than the third seed in the tournament.

The team traveled to UConn for last season’s finale where it was shut out 7-0, then eliminated in the semifinal of the conference tournament 3-0 by the Huskies a week later. UConn eventually went on to win the national championship.

But last year came with a learning curve for the Owls, with it being their inaugural season as a member of the Big East, and the first time seeing one of the conference’s top teams.

“Now we know how they play,” junior defender and co-captain Rachel Steinman said. “We know the strong players, we know how they run defensive corners. We have more strategy going into it.”

The Owls will also be heading into the game celebrating a senior core of forward Amber Youtz, midfielder Nicole Kroener and goalkeeper Lizzy Millen.

Both Youtz and Millen have had years that have put themselves amongst the best in the nation. Youtz set a career-high for goals in a season after recording her eighth career hat trick, and fourth of the season, against Georgetown Friday to give her 24 goals for the year. She scored her 25th on Sunday with 33 seconds left in the first half against Lafayette.

Youtz ranks third in Division I with a 1.39 goals per game average, and has a 3.17 points per game average, which ranks second. She led the nation in goals per game with 1.31 as of Oct. 24.

In the Temple record books, her 67 career goals have her one away from tying Monica Mills (1981-84) for third all-time in program history.

Millen’s 80 percent save percentage, meanwhile, stands as the nation’s third-best, while Kroener has been a staple of Temple’s midfield all season, coming up with strong defensive play and having logged no less than 57 minutes each game.

“Playing UConn on your senior day, you just have to come out and give it everything you got,” Youtz said. “Upsets can happen any day and if we can come in with that attitude and play like we did today [against Lafayette], you never know what will happen.”

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

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