The start of the Atlantic Ten Conference portion of a team’s schedule brings with it a chance for a do-over, a chance for a fresh start to a season.
In the case of the field hockey team, it offered the chance to forget the last nine games, during which opponents outscored Temple by a 34-9 margin and won eight of those meetings, including a 9-0 victory by No. 8 Michigan State on Oct. 5.
Last Friday’s game against West Chester at Geasey Field served as a turning point in the Owls’ season. It provided a chance to stop the bleeding and open the A-10 season with a win against a Rams team picked to finish fifth in the seven-team conference.
“I can’t imagine not being in this position [starting off 1-0 in A-10s] because if you lose early on it really just hurts you later,” senior defender Mary Catherine Kinneman said. “So I think we really realized how important it was to come out and play strong in the beginning, so that in the end we can really be focused on winning and focused on the [A-10] Tournament.”
The Owls, who are now 6-8 overall and 2-0 in conference after the 4-2 victory over West Chester (5-8, 0-2) and a 1-0 win over La Salle (5-10, 0-2), scored first in Friday’s game thanks to the first of two goals by redshirt senior forward Liz Watto. The goal at 28:57 marked the first time Temple scored the first goal in a game since the Sept. 28 game versus Rider. That game was the Owls’ lone win over the past nine games.
“As a team, we were just pumped up to start the A-10s. We had to get on the board early. That was our goal, and we did it,” Watto said. “That was big. It felt good to just lead the team right away.”
Watto never got a chance to lead the team last year, as she played only seven games before suffering a season-ending injury. This year, she is one of only four seniors on the 24-woman squad.
“I didn’t even realize [Watto scored two goals in the game]. That’s great. I’ve been unintentionally putting a lot of pressure on our seniors because we really want them to step up because we think they can handle the pressure,” coach Amanda Janney said. “I think that’s a great sign that one of our seniors was able to score two goals for us in our first A-10 game because she knows how much conference play means to us.”
Watto’s first goal, along with the team-leading sixth goal by junior forward Charise Young, gave Temple a 2-0 lead before the half.
That marked the first time the Owls held a halftime lead since the Rider game, which was also the only time it happened during that nine-game span.
“It’s a pretty good feeling to be up two at half instead of down two at half, so that’s definitely a positive,” Kinneman said.
And the scoring didn’t stop there.
Temple netted two more goals in the second half, and none was more important than the last one, which came 34 seconds after West Chester closed to within 3-2, thanks to two goals by sophomore midfielder Brittany Cislak. Cislak is tied for first in the A-10 in goals scored with nine.
“It was a really good sign for us to score as soon as they scored. The response was really impressive for our team because we’ve had trouble rebounding after the other team scores on us,” Janney said. “The biggest thing I’m so proud of is that we scored four goals. We’ve had trouble scoring the past couple games. To gain that attack confidence is really big for us.”
Temple last scored four goals or more on Aug. 30 and 31 in back-to-back victories against Lehigh and Bryant to open the season.
“We’ve had some tough games, but we’ve been improving every single game. I think that’s all that matters because now it’s A-10s, and this is what we’ve been training for since the spring,” Watto said. “It’s A-10s, and games can go any way. You just have to score.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.