It’s nothing but conference games from here on out.
After starting the season 3-6, Temple will finish out its regular season with the team’s first set of games against Big East Conference opponents. Temple will begin conference play Saturday against Connecticut (5-4) and then will have match-ups against Villanova (4-4), Louisville (6-3) and Cincinnati (6-3) in the weeks that follow. This is the team’s first year competing as a Big East affiliate, after the university’s other sports transitioned to the American Athletic Conference – which doesn’t sponsor lacrosse programs.
The Owls’ first four conference games will be played at Geasey Field, while the remaining three conference match-ups will be on the road against Marquette (4-5), Georgetown (3-4) and Rutgers (5-4).
Although the Owls got off to a rocky start, the beginning of conference play is giving them renewed hope toward improving their record.
“It’s a clean slate here,” graduate defender Nina Falcone said.
“Different people are stepping up and different things are working that weren’t working before,” Falcone added. “I really think we can get serious when it comes to the conference and I’m confident that we will be one of the [Top] 4 teams.”
The first nine games were filled with more than a few bumps in the road for the Owls. After winning the season opener against St. Joseph’s, the Owls went on to lose five of their next six, including back-to-back losses to Colorado and Denver by a combined score of 27-15 on a spring break road trip.
Temple has been a second half team thus far, as the team has outscored its opponents 42-38 in the second halves this season. But the Owls have been outscored 63-33 in the first – as they often have dug themselves into holes too big to climb out of.
It happened in a 17-9 loss Cornell back on Feb. 23, when Temple faced a 12-3 deficit going into halftime. It was the same for the spring break road trip, when the Owls fell behind 5-2 early against Colorado and then 9-4 in the first half against Denver. Against Delaware, Temple fell behind 10-2 at one point, before tallying two quick goals before the end of the half.
Last Wednesday’s game against Hofstra looked like it was heading in the same direction, when the Pride jumped out to a 7-1 lead with under five minutes left in the first. But something was different, this time.
Temple was winning most of the draw controls, having taken 14 of 21 by the game’s end, with sophomore midfielder Maddie McTigue leading the way with five. Matched up with a few big saves from redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik, it seemed like the Owls were the ones in control, even with that six goal deficit to overcome.
A 9-8 overtime victory proved that they were. Something clicked for the Owls, and the energy from that game carried over into Saturday’s match-up against UMBC, a close one, even though it ended in an 11-9 loss.
“We’re learning faster in games on how to make adjustments,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “I still think we’ve got, in general, a pretty young team that is still learning from all the different styles of play we come against throughout the whole game, offensively and defensively and that’s still catching us by surprise at times, but I’m happy with the fact that we do seem to make adjustments.”
Still, the Owls won’t be able to get by on being a second half team.
“I loved to see us realize that we can own a game from the beginning and not need to figure it out and having to get back into it,” Rosen said.
Before the season started, Rosen said that Temple was entering the Big East as a bit of an unknown. Even though teams now have scouting reports and film to work off of, she still believes in that prediction.
“Teams can scout every game we’ve had so far,” Rosen said. “But our game is evolving so much that I don’t know how scout-able it is.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.