Upon the beginning of the 2012 season, Temple knew it had a tough task at hand as the team had to fill in the offensive gap left behind from former captain and forward Niki Conn.
In her four seasons with the Owls, Conn led the team each year in goals, points and shots. At the completion of her career in Fall 2011, Conn ranked second all-time with 27 goals and third all-time with 62 career points.
Temple opened the 2012 season with the youngest roster in NCAA women’s soccer, as 15 freshmen joined the Owls in a youth movement coach Matt Gwilliam said he was excited for. With more than half of the squad beginning their collegiate careers, the team was unsure how quickly it would take to develop both trust and chemistry, redshirt-senior goalkeeper Tara Murphy said.
“All season, it didn’t matter what class you were on this team,” Murphy said. “I was surprised by how quickly we were able to work together and come together as a unit.”
The Owls finished the 2012 season with a scoreless tie against city rival La Salle on Oct. 28, ending the season with a 5–12–3 record and placing 14th out of 16 teams in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Temple lost five matches in 2012 by a score of 1–0, and seven of the team’s 12 losses were settled by one goal.
“No matter what the records may show, we played together and had fun doing it,” Murphy said.
Although the team was recognized mainly for its strong defensive play in 2012, the Owls ranked No. 317 out of 321 teams in NCAA Division I women’s soccer in scoring offense, averaging .50 goals per match.
“I was surprised with our inability to capitalize on chances this season,” Gwilliam said. “Sometimes, things just didn’t bounce our way offensively.”
Temple finished the 2012 campaign with 10 goals. Freshman midfielder Paige Rachel, senior midfielder Jourdan Brill and senior midfielder Kate Yurkovic led the Owls with two goals each.
“[Temple’s] defense really improved a lot this season,” Yurkovic said. “Last season, we didn’t score a lot and didn’t work well as a defensive unit either. This season, we were one of the better defensive teams in the nation.”
The Owls finished the 2012 season ranked No. 101 out of 321 teams in goals-against average, allowing 22 goals in 20 matches. Temple allowed an average of 1.10 goals per match in 2012, after allowing an average of 2.56 goals per match in 2011.
Between Murphy, senior goalkeeper Gillian Kacsuta and freshman goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff, Temple finished the season with seven shutouts and a .350 shutout percentage, which ranked No. 114 in the NCAA.
Murphy started 10 matches for the Owls and allowed 14 goals and an average of 1.32 goals per match this season. Murphy recorded a team high 82 saves, recorded two shutouts, along with a save percentage of 0.854 while posting a record of 2–6–1 when in goal.
“[Murphy] is a great teammate,” Kerkhoff said. “Every practice she helps me and there has never been a moment where she hasn’t offered to help. She has been an all around great leader and has been extra helpful to me on and off the field.”
In her first collegiate season, Kerkhoff impressed as she recorded a shutout in her first collegiate start against Iona on Sept. 7. This season, Kerkhoff allowed eight goals and 0.81 goals per match. Kerkhoff saved 63 shots, recorded four shutouts and posted a save percentage of 0.887 with a record of 3–6–1.
“[Kerkhoff] is an awesome player,” Murphy said. “She is a hard worker in everything that she does, open to coaching, very receptive to everything that I told her, and she will do great next season.”
After transferring to Temple from Rhode Island in 2010, Murphy said a lot has changed in three seasons with the team.
“Over the three years I have been with [Temple], the team has changed a lot in terms of work ethic,” Murphy said. “We have worked a lot harder as the years went on. We have worked together and made sure everyone was working on their fitness this year and even keeping up with school work.”
The main goal for Temple in future seasons is to make postseason play, Gwilliam said. The last time the Owls were in the postseason was 1995, when the Owls competed in the A-10 tournament. They will not have a chance to end their 17-year drought as they will be competing in the Big East Conference next season. Temple hasn’t posted a winning record since 2000.
When the 2013 season begins, the Owls will be losing eight seniors from the 2012 roster. The young roster has the talent and the ability to fill the shoes of the seniors that will not be back for another season, Gwilliam said.
“We will miss not having the leadership aspect,” Gwilliam said. “The eight seniors had a drive to really help me change this program around and we will miss them being on board with the process.”
John Murrow can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@johnmurrow12.