Big East lacrosse tournament hopes rely on season’s last day

Temple must beat Georgetown University on Saturday to have a chance to make the Big East Conference tournament.

Sophomore defender Kara Nakrasius turns away from La Salle freshman midfielder Bridget Ruskey during the Owls’ 8-4 win on March 12 at Howarth Field. | SYDNEY SCHAEFER / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The final day of the 2018 season will determine if Temple makes the Big East Conference tournament. The Owls (9-7, 4-4 Big East) will face Georgetown University (11-4, 7-1 Big East) on Saturday at Howarth Field.

The Owls are tied for fifth place in the Big East. The top four teams earn a playoff spot. If Temple makes the Big East tournament, it will be its third consecutive appearance.

For Temple to earn the fourth seed, the Owls must beat the Hoyas, and the University of Denver (10-5, 5-3 Big East), which is receiving votes in the Inside Lacrosse poll, must lose on Saturday. Temple holds the head-to-head tiebreaker against Denver because the Owls upset the Pioneers, which were then nationally ranked, 10-9, last month.

Denver is tied for third in the conference, but it lost to the University of Florida, which is No. 6 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, on Saturday. Denver will start its match against Vanderbilt University one hour before Temple plays Georgetown. The Commodores (8-8, 3-5 Big East) will enter their game against Denver on a four-game losing streak after Sunday’s 20-19 overtime loss to UConn.

Temple also has to hope for a loss by UConn (8-8, 4-4 Big East) in its game on Saturday against Marquette University. Because both UConn and Marquette beat Temple, those teams have the head-to-head tie breaker over the Owls.

The Owls put up big back-to-back wins against Butler University on April 14 and Vanderbilt last Wednesday before losing to Villanova on Saturday. The Owls tied the game at 13 with two minutes, 33 seconds left before Wildcats junior attacker Jillian Swikart scored the game-winning goal with less than two minutes left.

“We’ve been in must-wins now for a couple games,” coach Bonnie Rosen said after Saturday’s loss. “To control our own destiny, it starts with just, you’ve got to win the game.”

The Owls haven’t appeared in either the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament or Big East tournament in three straight seasons since its run of appearances from 1999-2008.

“We can only control what we can control, and another week of practice together is something we’re looking forward to,” Rosen said.

“We would be super excited if a win over Georgetown gave us a chance to get into this tournament at this point,” Rosen added. “One way or the other, we’re prepping to put our best game on the field.”

Georgetown is fifth in the Big East in goals per game and third in the conference in shots per game. The Hoyas have won six games in a row, including Saturday’s overtime win against Big East opponent Marquette.

Georgetown’s last loss came on March 28 to the University of Maryland, the No. 3 team in the IWLCA poll.

“It’s really important that we have this full week to really recoup and work on what we need to work on and really help our individual skills as well as our team skills,” sophomore defender Kara Nakrasius said.

“We have to have the three major keys of possession, speed and communication,” Nakrasius added. “If we really emphasize that this week and push everyone forward and get everyone going, I think that we’ll do well against Georgetown.”

In conference play, the Owls are tied with Butler University for last in draw controls per game, and they rank fifth in turnovers per game. The Owls average only 10 draw controls per game, while turning the ball over 17.5 times per game. Georgetown has the fewest turnovers out of all Big East teams.

The Owls are also second to last in the Big East shots per game and goals per game. They are only ahead of last-place Butler in both categories.

Individually, key defensive players have standout statistics in conference play.

Senior defender Nicole Latgis is second in the Big East for caused turnovers per game with 2.38, and she is also second in ground balls per game with an average of 3.62.

Nakrasius is fourth in caused turnovers per game and fifth in ground balls per game. She averages 1.75 caused turnovers and 2.75 ground balls per game, which is tied with Marquette junior midfielder Grace Gabriel.

Sophomore goalkeeper Maryn Lowell, who has started every game, is fourth in saves per game during the conference season with an average of 7.88. Lowell has the second-highest single-game save total of any player in the conference with 17 stops against Princeton University on Feb. 17.

“We really just need to focus on doing the little things and big things will happen,” Nakrasius said. “It’s coming down to the wire, but we’re going to put it all out there.”

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