Sports

Struggling Owls to begin conference play

The Owls open Big East Conference play on Friday against Old Dominion.

Last season’s Big East Conference title game loss to Connecticut is still reverberating in the minds of the returning Owls.

The 4-1 defeat at the hands of the reigning national champions was the last conference match with former coach Amanda Janney at the helm and all-American forward Amber Youtz leading the front line of attack.

Now, first-year coach Marybeth Freeman and her 10-member senior class will try to improve on a disappointing 3-7 non-conference record and win a conference tournament for the first time since the Owls won the Atlantic-10 Conference in 1999.

“We can look at what we did last year, try to fix that, and come out strong again this year,” junior forward Katie Foran said.
“I just want to get back at UConn for the loss.”

Three of the six Big East teams have winning records, including Old Dominion and UConn, who are both ranked in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association coaches poll at No. 15 and No. 1, respectivly.

After Georgetown University (5-4) and Villanova (3-6), Temple has the fifth best record in the conference, followed by Providence College (1-9).

“Obviously we expect the best out of UConn, Providence and [Old Dominion],” senior forward Tricia Light said. “UConn and [Old Dominion] are ranked currently, so we know they’re going to be tough games, but we know how to beat them, and we’ve done it before. We were so close to beating UConn in the regular season last year, and in the championship, so we know what we’re up against.”

This season marks the Owls’ third year in the Big East after they left the A-10 in 2012. Since Temple’s departure from the A-10, the team has a 7-5 Big East conference record, better than all conference foes except UConn and Old Dominion.

Light said the two years of Big East experience have given her and her teammates a better grasp on how each conference team plays.

“I think that experience that you get from being in a conference definitely helps,” the Annville, Pennsylvania native said. “You know the style of play that the UConn’s, ODU’s, Georgetown’s and all of those teams play. That definitely is going to be a benefit for us, and the senior class has experience in the Big East tournament.”

This season, the Owls are 0-5 against Top 20 teams. They have been outscored 21-9 in those five games. In 2014, Temple was 2-6 against ranked teams, including 1-3 against ranked Big East teams.

“You know, you can look at the conference [games] and you can say [there is] added pressure,” Freeman said. “I look at the eight ranked opponents that we have on our schedule and I think that that’s been pressure throughout the whole entire year. I think that we have been resilient. I think that we have bounced back, and I think that our record doesn’t indicate how many successful changes we have made.”

Matt Cockayne can be reached at matthew.cockayne@temple.edu or on Twitter @MattCockayne55.

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