Busy offseason has field hockey thinking big for fall

Current players have trained on the national level this offseason, while one recruit has enjoyed a head start.

It’s been a busy summer.

After a 14-6, nationally-ranked season in 2013, the Owls have stayed active in the months since.

Forward and leading scorer Amber Youtz, entering her senior year, was named to the 2014 U.S. Field Hockey Women’s Indoor Squad in late March before joining a group of her Temple teammates at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster a few months later for the United States High Performance Women’s National Championship.

“This is a typical summer for us,” coach Amanda Janney said. “Not much has changed in terms of schedule. The success has changed and the players are especially better. So we’re just continuing to get better and better.”

“Our players are working really hard in the offseason and every summer they come back in better shape,” Janney added. “It pays off for the season. Because of our success and because we have strong upperclassmen returning, it’s been nice to see them be a part of the U.S. season, that they’re trying out for the national teams, they’re trying to make the squad. It’s nice that they’re getting recognized on this team.”

It won’t be the last time Temple pays a visit to Lancaster, as the team is set to go back to Spooky Nook Sports—dubbed the official training ground of USA Women’s Field Hockey—next month to open up their season with the Conference Cup Tournament.

The Owls’ opening weekend slate against Northeastern and UMass will be the first collegiate games to be played at the Complex.

With the season opener coming up at the end of August, one recruit, Maiyah Brown, has been looking to get as much of a jump as she can.

The freshman midfielder/forward has already arrived on campus, taking classes while working with the team and strength coaches.

“Waking up early, and running and conditioning with the players so far, it feels good because it feels like I have an advantage,” Brown said. “I’m kind of connecting with the team quicker than normal. I don’t have to waste a preseason and getting in shape before the preseason. I can get into the groove of things.”

Brown, who recorded 36 goals and 22 assists in her four years at William Allen High School in Allentown and made the indoor squad with Youtz, hasn’t found the jump from high school to college difficult thus far.

“Not too much of a difference,” Brown said of the transition. “I think the conditioning and running are the things that are a bit harder, but I’ve done it before and you just have to push yourself. You have to have dedication and motivation.”

Brown is one of seven recruits Temple brought in for the 2014 season.

Midfielders Rachel Mueller and Ashley Kucera, defender/midfielder Hattie Kuhns, forward Maris Stern, midfielder/defender Madison Gouza and goalkeeper Sam Grzegorczyk make up the rest of the recruiting class, with all seven players coming out of Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania is the best place for high school field hockey,”” Janney said. “It produces the best players. If you look at our U.S. National Team, more than 50 percent are from Pennsylvania.”

“I think the home of [field] hockey being the Spooky Nook in Lancaster is going to continue to change things for the better for us,” Janney added. “The players in Pennsylvania are going to keep getting even better because they have access to go and watch the national team.”

The Owls’ 2013 campaign came to an end when they were knocked out in the first round of the Big East Tournament by the eventual national champion in Connecticut.

Heading into last season, the Owls had to worry about filling the void for a lone 2012 senior in Katie Briglia. This season, they have to manage making up for losing two key defensive players in Molly Doyle and Mandi Shearer, and an offensive threat in Lauren Hunt.

Still, the expectation is to have a better year than the last.

“I would say yes, we’re going to have a much better season then last year,” Janney said. “However, replacing those great seniors in Mandi and Molly is going to be very difficult. Lauren Hunt scored goals for us, and we have to find another goal scorer. I think we will in either [sophomore forward Katie Foran] and Maiyah, or some of the other forwards that are competing for a position.”

But we’re in great shape,” Janny added. “They had success this summer with all the players competing in the high performance program, and with Amber and Maiyah being on the national team, getting that additional training, we look great for the fall. We’re very excited to get started.”

Nick Tricome can be reached at nick.tricome@temple.edu or on Twitter @itssnick215.

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