They knew they had lost more than just a game.
After a 4-1 loss to eventual-NCAA champion Connecticut in the Big East Conference title, the field hockey team was forced to say goodbye to one of the best players in program history.
Amber Youtz, the 2015 Big East Offensive Player of the Year and the third highest scorer in the program’s history, had played her last game in a Temple uniform.
With the graduation of the 2015 National Field Hockey Coaches Association first team All-American, the team lost its featured attacker and the anchor of its offensive production.
What they didn’t know would have a similar impact, after Amanda Janney, the squad’s former coach, left for Indiana University.
After searching for a new coach, the athletic department settled on Marybeth Freeman, the former coach of Columbia University.
The hiring of Freeman in March set the stage for a new offensive approach. Freeman’s philosophy focuses on a balanced attack that features every player, rather than relying on one.
“Amber had such great talent that we all would want to give her the ball and let her do her thing,” senior midfielder Sarah Deck said. “I think now we need to utilize multiple people in order to beat the other team’s defense. We can’t afford to be predictable anymore.”
Youtz tallied 27 of the Owls’ 62 goals in 2015 and took 37 percent of Temple’s shots. No other player on the squad scored more than 7 goals or took more than 20 percent of the team’s shots.
“I think it’s important that we’re able to showcase all of our players’ specialty skills and strengths,” Freeman said. “It hasn’t just been about one person, it’s about the entire team understanding what the plan is. As far as the X’s and O’s, everyone is going to be responsible for knowing every single position on the field, so that we can move in and out of our formations pretty easily.”
Last year, Youtz and junior forward Katie Foran were the only Owls to total more than 20 points.
“We’re going to be subbing more, we’re going to be taking turns with who’s scoring,” Deck said. “You’re going to see a lot of different people’s names, which I’m very excited about.”
In addition to the 10 seniors on the team, Freeman said she expects more production from sophomore midfielders Maiyah Brown and Rachael Mueller, Foran and junior midfielder Paige Gross, who all combined for 47 points last season.
“What I have tried to implement this past spring is to make sure that everyone is held accountable for their own performance in a variety of different positions,” Freeman said. “We are really going to be looking for the junior class to balance out the senior class, and of course, be leaders of the sophomores and freshmen.”
Gross, who played the role of distributor last year with 11 assists and no goals, is looking to become a better attacking midfielder in 2015.
“Especially with coach Marybeth, I think I will be [attacking more],” Gross said. “In the spring, I scored a lot more goals than I ever have in the regular season or at any other time. I’m just becoming more confident in taking those offensive risks, rather than passing to Amber or passing to a forward that I have more confidence in taking the ball into the circle.”
Eight of the 11 starters from the 2014 squad are returning, but in their new coach’s scheme the Owls don’t think they bare any resemblance to last year’s team .
“I think with Marybeth we’re a completely different team,” Gross said. “We’re way more aggressive, we get things done quicker and we see the quicker way to goal. We see the faster and more effective way to score, instead of just trying to go through Amber.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mattcockayne55.