Much like the football team, the women’s soccer team has struggled to score as of late, putting only 10 balls in the back of the net in its 10 games this season.
Unlike the football team, however, the women can say they are off to a good start in the conference portion of their schedule.
With two ties this weekend against Xavier and Massachusetts, the Owls (2-5-3 overall) technically stand undefeated in the Atlantic Ten Conference at 0-0-2.
“Last year, we started off real strong in the non-conference portion of our schedule, but we didn’t finish,” coach David Jones said. “This year in non-conference, we did things a little differently. We moved some people, some young players, around to different positions. This game [against UMass] was the best game we have played, definitely.”
After opening A-10 play on the road against Xavier and coming away with a 2-2 tie, the Owls faced a UMass team on Sunday that they had not played since 2006.
That game ended in a 1-0 victory for the Minutewomen.
This time neither team scored.
“Sometimes it’s nice playing an opponent you’re not familiar with because then all you have to worry about is what to do on your own team,” senior defender Cori Gallagher said. “It was a bit of a challenge, but I think this game [against UMass] was the most consistently organized game we’ve played all year. To play like we did against two quality teams in the first weekend of A-10 play is just unbelievable.”
To build on that start and avoid last year’s 1-8-2 record against A-10 opponents that landed the team one spot above the conference basement, the Owls’ offense will have to find some life. Currently 12th in the conference in goals scored per game, the offense has only attempted 104 shots through 10 games.
That leaves the team tied for 12th in that category, too. Only 14 teams make up the A-10.
“The offense just needs more opportunities,” Jones said. “It needs smarter opportunities. We need to get the ball in the box more often to generate more chances for goals. I think some people need to be a little more selfish, too.”
One of the team’s – and offense’s- bright spots so far has been freshman forward Niki Conn. Conn, who was named A-10 Soccer Rookie of the Week for the week of Sept. 15, leads the team with four goals.
“Our offense is working toward scoring more goals,” sophomore midfielder Sara Scheid said. “We have a deep bench and one of our freshman players [Conn] is a complete asset. We’re working on getting into the box.”
Luckily for the Owls, their two goalkeepers, sophomore Kara Williams and freshman Courtney Douglas, have combined to save 62 would-be goals, good for a tie for first place in the A-10 with the University of Rhode Island.
“Our defense has been putting all the parts together,” Gallagher said. “It’s not just the four of us in the back. It’s everyone on the team.”
The defense will need to continue to pull the weight, as Temple will face Philadelphia-rival St. Joseph’s on Sunday before traveling to Charlotte and St. Louis the following weekend. The 49ers and Billikens were picked to finish No.1 and No. 3, respectively, in an A-10 preseason coaches’ poll.
“We just have to keep plugging away and approach each weekend as a separate piece to a puzzle,” Jones said.
Gallagher seconded Jones’ opinion.
“This is definitely the portion of the season that means the most,” she said. “We have to build off this weekend and step up and reach our goal of making it to the A-10s. It started this weekend.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.