Senior forward Niki Conn leads the offense as she scores the game-winning goal.
With her play against George Washington, senior forward Niki Conn showed why she is such a threat every time she steps on the field.
Conn netted the lone goal of the contest in the 30th minute as the Owls held on to beat the Colonials 1-0.
The game featured intense physical play, especially in the second half. Temper and frustration level’s rose as George Washington desperately tried to tack on a game-tying goal. Temple had more fouls committed (10) than shots taken (eight), in the game. George Washington took 12 shots, eight of which came in the second half.
Temple’s increased physical play combined with the Colonials desire to score, put pressure on the Owls’ defense for the majority of the second half.
“They had a lot of pressure on us, but everyone worked together and we picked up for anyone that made a mistake,” redshirt-junior goalkeeper Tara Murphy said. “We did well holding them off considering their whole team was in our half of the field.”
Ball control, especially the air game was a significant factor in the Owls’ win.
“It’s something that this program this year has prided itself on, that we are very good in the air,” coach Matt Gwilliam said. “When we play, we try and play to our strengths, and that’s one of them.”
Conn’s goal in the first half showed exactly what Gwilliam was referring to.
“We were all playing aggressive and winning head balls,” Conn said. “We won the middle of the field and got the score off of it.”
After losing Friday’s game against Richmond, Temple fell to 0-3 in Atlantic Ten Conference play, and a match-up with George Washington (4-7-2, 1-1-2 A-10), was an opportunity to knock off an undefeated league team. Conn’s goal in the first half was the first goal the Colonials have given up in an A-10 match-up this season. The goal also allowed the Owls to beat George Washington for the first time in three seasons.
“I think it definitely shows that we are a team to compete with and we are definitely not going to roll over every game,” Murphy said.
The Owls’ ability to stay in the game mentally was something that allowed them to knock off the Colonials, who stood higher in the conference standings. The Colonials appeared to get more frustrated as the game developed.
“This was the best thing I have ever seen all year out of this group mentally,” Gwilliam said. “They came together and they focused on the task at hand. You have to do your job, and that’s what they did. Each individual kid did their job and it led to the collective.”
Conn seemed to be in the minds of every Colonials defender after registering her second goal in as many games. Conn spent the remainder of the game being man-marked by at least one player at all times.
“That’s kind of what the general consensus is with [Conn], she often gets man-marked,” Gwilliam said. “She’s a threat wherever she plays and I think it’s a testament to her that programs view her like that.”
As George Washington attempted to come back in the second half, Conn, the leading goal-scorer (three), spent a large amount of time on the sideline.
“They wanted to give me as much break as they can, because my ankle isn’t holding up as much as it can be,” Conn said. “So they want to make sure I don’t get hurt so I can play the rest of the season.”
Conn hurt her ankle against Buffalo, an injury that Gwilliam said affected her more than just physically.
“She had a real rough patch when she got a bad injury up at Buffalo and I know that set her back physically, and it set her back mentally as well,” Gwilliam said.
But, after netting a goal against Richmond and with her game-winner against George Washington, Conn appears to have made progress towards fully recovering from her ankle injury.
Conn is hitting her stride at a vital time in the season. The Owls will play their remaining five games all against A-10 opponents, which will give them an opportunity to solidify a stronger position in the conference.
“I think it’s a big statement,” Conn said. “It proves to the other teams that we are a threat now and people are going to start looking at us differently.”
Temple begins a three-game road trip on Friday when they visit cross-town rival St. Joseph’s. The Owls will then travel to Xavier and Dayton before finishing up the season with back-to-back conference home games.
Ibrahim Jacobs can be reached at email@example.com.