If their last two games ended after 45 minutes, the Owls would have a perfect conference record and sit at the top of the Atlantic 10 Conference. Unfortunately for Temple, lacrosse games last 60 minutes, and with back-to-back blown leads, the Owls have now lost two in a row.
“It’s about learning how to close things out when you get a chance,” coach Bonnie Rosen said.
With a perfect conference record, Temple traveled to Amherst, Mass., to play No. 13 Massachusetts, a conference juggernaut, on April 12. Midway through the second half, the underdog Owls were in position for an upset victory. Junior attack Jaymie Tabor put the Owls ahead of the Minutewomen 9-7 with 15 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the game.
After the Tabor score, the Minutewomen outscored Temple 5-1 and won 12-10.
“[UMass] figured out how to get us,” senior midfielder Charlotte Swavola said. “That’s kind of what happened against La Salle. They figured out how to score on us and that came back to bite us because they also took away some of our main options. And as a result, we couldn’t find our favorite things to work with.”
After Temple played well against UMass, an April 14 matchup against La Salle, an inner-city rival with no conference wins, was a favorable one for the Owls. Temple led by a wide margin for most of the game. Approximately 11 minutes into the second half, freshman midfielder Avery Longstaff netted a goal to push the Owls’ lead to eight goals.
After the Longstaff goal, the Explorers finished the second game on a nine-goal run and won 14-13.
“I think we felt too comfortable with our lead and didn’t finish off a team,” Rosen said. “We started to make mistakes and let their team come at us. We didn’t have the experience of how to stop them. We just made too many mistakes when we had the game in our control.”
Stagnant offense has been one of the reasons for Temple’s second-half inefficiency. Late in games, long possessions haven’t amounted to points.
During Temple’s three game win streak from March 29 to April 7, the Owls held a second-half goal advantage of 13-8 combined. Against UMass and La Salle, the Owls were outscored 17-8 in the second half.
“We need to convert,” Swavola said. “We didn’t convert longer possessions into goals. We can’t hold the ball for three minutes and not get a goal out of it.”
Collectively, the Owls know that failing to gain possession on late game draws has also led to their opponents gaining an abundance of opportunities to regain leads and score often.
“Really, draw controls are the key,” senior midfielder Stephany Parcell said. “We lose the draw control, they have either been possessing the ball and scoring or taking the ball right off the draw and scoring.”
Against its first three A-10 opponents, Temple held the second-half draw control advantage. But in the second halves against UMass and La Salle, the Owls collected 12 combined draws compared to 15 by their opponent.
“Draw controls matter at critical times,” Rosen said. “When you want to win you have to do the little things.”
The Owls have shown the ability to be dominant during their conference matchups and have also shown that they have room to grow. Though they have squandered the opportunity to march into the A-10 tournament with an undefeated conference record, the Owls still have a chance to redeem themselves.
“We need to use these two losses as motivation,” Parcell said.
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BErick1123.