After a sluggish win over Delaware, the 19th ranked Temple lacrosse team (12-4, 7-0) coasted to victories over St. Bonaventure 21-4 and Duquesne 20-9 this past weekend, propelling them into the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the top seed.
In addition to the win over Duquesne, which extended their winning streak to six, Sunday was also “Senior Day,” a salute to Temple’s seven seniors on the team: Noelle Cebron, Robin Keevan, Shelly Wosczyna, Jen Jefferson, Alayna Tyson, Sara Morby and Katie Malany.
Senior Day was almost tainted by conference rival Duquesne, who Temple had last played in the 2001 A-10 Championship, which Temple won in overtime, 10-9.
A stagnant first half saw the Owls down 6-4, as the Dukes were in complete control.
The second half seemed to resonate with urgency as the seniors realized this was their final game on Geasey Field. The result was total domination. They outscored the Dukes 16-3, as Cebron assisted on the final goal, giving her 31 for the season and setting a new Owl single-season record.
“Knowing that it was the last time some of us were going to play with each other made it more emotional,” Cebron said. “We definitely needed to pick up our intensity in the second half, because it hit us at halftime that this was our last home game.”
The Owls played like a completely different team as Cebron and Keevan scored in the first minute of the second half. The two seniors combined for 11 goals.
Against St. Bonaventure the Owls used an all-round attack, jumping out to a 14-1 lead and never looking back. Coupled with their current win streak, Temple has won 12 straight A-10 games, and are looking for two more in the four-team tournament that puts them against Duquesne, again, in the first round.
“Duquesne is going to be tough, because they were missing two of their best players due to injury,” Temple coach Kim Ciarrocca said. “But it’s nice to see that we scored 16 goals in the second half.”
Despite the Owls string of success in A-10 play, they cannot afford to get ahead of themselves. Duquesne should have back its two best players in Friday’s playoff game, and another formidable threat to Temple is Richmond. The Owls squeaked by the Spiders 12-11 in double-overtime earlier this year.
“We need to improve a little more on double and triple teaming the ball,” Ciarrocca said. “I want them to work on their shooting from eight meters out and also taking lower shots. But we’re not really going to change our game plan at all, just sharpen up.”
Temple’s high-octane offense is created by its stifling defense, which have held five of their last six opponents to single digits. Cebron describes the defensive squad as the “unsung heroes” of the team.
Sheena Oommen leads all A-10 goalkeepers in save percentage and goals against average. Shelly Wosczyna has anchored the defense, which held Duquesne scoreless for the final 21 minutes of regulation.
“Defense is definitely a group effort,” Keevan said. “So if one girl is off, then the whole defense will suffer, so it’s important that we keep talking to each other.”
As the tournament approaches the intensity and physical play will pick up a notch, and the Owls will once again depend on their defense to be their best offense come Friday in Pittsburgh.
Jason Haslam can be reached at Jasonhaslam@yahoo.com