Backer part of field hockey defense facing early ‘pressure’

Sophomore Becky Gerhart helped Temple earn its first win in a shutout on Saturday.

Sophomore backer Becky Gerhart sends the ball upfield during practice on Sept. 2 at Howarth Field. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Becky Gerhart never stepped foot inside of a high school classroom as a student, but it didn’t affect her chance to play college field hockey.

Home-schooled since fourth grade, the sophomore backer played for her local high school in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Gerhart caught coach Marybeth Freeman’s attention while playing for her club team, and she went from learning without classmates to attending a university with more than 29,000 undergraduates during her first semester in Fall 2016.

“I thought it was a normal process coming to Temple, everyone else was coming to college for the first time,” Gerhart said.

Gerhart played for Field Hockey Sports Club and had 100 career points for Quakertown High School. Freeman recruited Gerhart directly through the club team, so there was no difference in the recruiting process, she said.

Gerhart made a significant impact during her freshman campaign. She played 19 games, starting 15 of them, and ranked third in Division I with nine defensive saves.

“It was great watching her play last year, and it goes directly to her character,” Freeman said. “She asked a lot of questions, she retained a lot of information, her learning curve was small and her competition was high. For us, it doesn’t matter if you’re a senior or a freshman. If you put in the work and put in the time, you’re going to play.”

In 2017, Gerhart hopes to anchor a back line seeking to improve from last season’s performance. She has started all five games so far and is tied for the team lead in minutes.

The Owls finished 69th out of 79 teams in Division I with a 3.5 goals against average in 2016. In Temple’s 12 losses, the team allowed nearly five goals per game. The Owls conceded eight goals in three different games and 14 goals in their two losses to Connecticut.

Currently, Temple sits at 72nd in Division I with a goals against average of 4.2. The team allowed nine goals to Northwestern University, then ranked No. 14 in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll, on Friday and shutout Kent State University in its win on Saturday. Gerhart made a defensive save against Northwestern.

The weekend’s two games ended a stretch of five straight games against teams that finished the 2016 season in the Top 30 of the Ratings Percentage Index.

Temple will play its first Big East Conference opponent, Providence College, on the road Friday. The Friars made the league’s postseason tournament in 2016 and will host this year’s competition.

The Owls have played in either the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament or the Big East tournament in every year since 2003, and the Owls have made the Big East tournament every year since joining the conference after the 2012 season.

Gerhart made at least one defensive save in each of Temple’s four wins in October 2016 during its run to the Big East semifinals against Connecticut. She also made a defensive save in Temple’s loss to the Huskies.

Temple’s goals against average don’t discourage the team because Freeman thinks her squad is making the right adjustments after games.

“I think they’re doing a great job with the pressure,” Freeman said. “Our defensive unit right now collectively is strong. Going up against [ranked] teams like Penn State and Northwestern, playing like we’re playing defensively gives us a good feeling.”

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