Temple hasn’t been in the Big East for very long, but they have already managed to turn heads.
The Owls jumped out to a 3-1 start that included an impressive shutout of a No. 6 ranked Penn State squad. The good start led to Temple getting placed in the national rankings for the first time in 12 years.
But all of this happened before the Owls have gotten the chance to play a conference opponent. On Friday, Sept. 20, the time will finally arrive.
Temple’s first Big East opponent will be a team that isn’t too far away and one they are always in competition with for best team in the city: the Villanova Wildcats.
“I think it’s going to be a tough game,” sophomore forward/midfielder Alyssa Delp said. “It’s always a tough game against another Philly school, because we always have a race for what team is the best in Philly.”
“I truly think that we are, but it’s going to be a good competition because it’s always in the back of both of our teams’ minds,” Delp added.
As it stands right now, it’s easy to argue that the Owls are the best team in the city, given the No. 11 ranking from the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Coaches Poll. However, that ranking could change later today, Sept. 17, as Temple went 1-1 last weekend.
Villanova may not be too far behind.
The Wildcats lost their first three games of the season, with the worst being a 10-0 defeat to No. 1 ranked North Carolina on Sept. 1.
But since its last defeat on Sept. 4 to Rider, Villanova has won two straight games with wins against Siena and Saint Louis. It has given them the chance to get to the .500 mark with a road game against Kent State on Sept. 22.
For the Owls, this past weekend was one for adjustment.
Temple was shutout by Delaware 2-0 on Friday night, in a game where the team didn’t start to make a push until late.
The Owls were outshot 19-10, making it the fourth straight game, since they beat Ohio State 4-1 on opening day, in which they have been outshot by their opponents.
But that all seemed to get fixed in a quick turnaround when the team had to travel back to Geasey Field to play Monmouth on Sept. 14.
The Owls came out firing, beating Monmouth in shots 21-9, winning by a final of 6-0, thanks to four goals by junior forward Amber Youtz and a goal each from Alyssa Delp and sophomore midfielder Amanda Fuertsch.
Play in the backfield has been a strong suit for Temple all season, with a defense that has kept opponents to an average of 1.67 goals per game and a goalkeeper in redshirt-junior and co-captain Lizzy Millen that has protected the cage with an .828 save percentage.
Defense and goalkeeping remained consistent throughout Saturday’s shutout of Monmouth. There was better balance on offense, due to changes that coach Amanda Janney made in the lineup, one of which was quicker rotation forwards.
The changes gave the Owls the win, but it was also a test of what Janney wants to try this week against Villanova.
“We used this game a little bit as a prep, because we were trying a strategy that we think is going to work against Villanova,” Janney said. “We changed a couple things up just knowing that we have a big game and knowing what kind of style of play Villanova plays – really aggressive, just like Monmouth does.”
Temple will not only have to prepare for Villanova’s approach on Friday, but also the playing surface.
Unlike the flat surface the Owls are accustomed to at Geasey Field, Villanova plays on the grassier turf of a football field.
“They definitely use their turf to their advantage,” senior midfielder/defender and co-captain Molly Doyle said. “They’ve given some really good teams a run for their money on their surface. We have practice time set up this week and we’re going to go over there and practice. We just need to take advantage of that time and get used to the turf and be ready to go when the time comes.”
“We have to go in there knowing it is going to be a good game and that it is going to be a battle,” Doyle added. “Whoever wants it more is going to win.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @itssnick215.