Final exams start in two days, and that means another school year is about to come to a close. Before anyone realizes, though, August will be here, and Temple Athletics will be back on the field/court for another season filled with sports.
The Owls finished the 2008 season with a 5-7 record, their best record since 1990, when they finished 7-4. Yes, it’s really been 18 years since Temple football recorded at least five wins. And for the second consecutive season, the Owls also finished at .500 in the Mid-American Conference at 4-4.
Coach Al Golden and his squad should be capable of repeating that MAC record, just by looking at 2008’s opponents. The Owls recorded victories against Miami (Ohio), Akron and Ohio last season but lost to Kent State, Buffalo and Eastern Michigan. Their two remaining MAC games will come versus teams Temple did not face last year – Toledo and Ball State. The Cardinals went undefeated until a MAC Championship loss to Buffalo.
Non-conference opponents again include road contests at Penn State and Navy, as well as a home matchup with Army. Last season, the Owls lost two of those three games.
That leaves the home and season opener against city rival Villanova Sept. 3 at Lincoln Financial Field. At least if the Owls can’t beat the Wildcats on the basketball court, maybe they’ll be able to defeat a Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) team.
Temple lost nine starters to graduation, and all eyes will be on the quarterback battle between redshirt junior Vaughn Charlton and redshirt sophomore Chester Stewart when summer camp breaks.
The Owls’ chances in the upcoming 2009-2010 season hinge less on opponents and more on components.
The Owls will face the typical Atlantic Ten Conference slate, although they get Dayton, Xavier and Massachusetts at home in the Liacouras Center this year. Big 5 rival Villanova, Penn State and Kansas will also travel to North Broad Street.
But the real question is who will take the place of senior guard Dionte Christmas and his 19.5 points per game.
Right now, it looks like it will have to be junior guard Ryan Brooks.
The departures of senior center Sergio Olmos and senior guard Semaj Inge are accounted for with sophomore forward Lavoy Allen and freshman guard Juan Fernandez.
That still leaves two open slots in the starting lineup, though.
Coach Fran Dunphy can choose among junior Luis Guzman, freshmen Scootie Randall and T.J. DiLeo and incoming freshman Khalif Wyatt for the backcourt.
His options in the frontcourt are a little more limited, with only incoming freshman Rahlir Jefferson and the injury-pending return of sophomore Craig Williams and freshman Micheal Eric.
So, it might be a little overly optimistic to expect a third consecutive A-10 Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance with the current question marks. But then again, Dunphy has until November to figure those out.
Coach Tonya Cardoza will have one full season as a coach under her belt, and in the first one, she led a team full of players recruited by former Temple coach Dawn Staley to an NCAA Tournament berth and a regular season upset of then-No. 13 Xavier.
She lost only two seniors, forwards Shenita Landry and Shanea Cotton, to graduation and has already signed four incoming freshmen to National Letters of Intent: forwards Alyssa Bennett and Natasha Thames, point guard Tiffany Davis and center Victoria Macauley.
As a result, there’s really no reason, sans injuries, not to expect the Owls to repeat last season’s performance.
Two fall non-revenue sports reached A-10 postseason play last year.
The field hockey team, which finished 8-12, lost senior defender Mary Catherine Kinneman, senior goalkeeper Erin Hanshue and senior forwards Liz Watto and Jamie Adams but returns otherwise intact. The Owls have made it to five straight A-10 semifinals.
The men’s soccer team also reached the A-10 semifinals, losing, 2-1, to Dayton. Junior forward J.T. Noone will lead the Owls next year, as he scored seven goals and assisted on 12 more. Only two seniors won’t return to the team, which ended the season 10-5-4 overall.
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at email@example.com.