Depth in women’s soccer leads to increased scoring output

With 10 games left, Temple has surpassed 2016’s goal total.

Senior forward Gabriella McKeown scores against Delaware State University junior goalkeeper Leslie Fazio in the 14th minute of Temple’s 8-0 win on Sunday at the Temple Sports Complex. | HOJUN YU / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After their eight-goal outburst on Sunday against Delaware State University, the Owls have 17 goals — more than they scored all last season.

In 2016, the Owls averaged 0.74 goals per game, netting 14 goals in their 19 games.

The Owls are averaging 2.13 goals per game this season. They are on pace for 38 — more than double last year’s total.

“I think the difference this year has just been executing,” coach Seamus O’Connor said. “We had opportunities last year. We just continuously struggled to convert on them.”

The Owls made 7.3 percent of their attempted shots last season, compared to 12.8 percent in 2017. The team is also creating more scoring opportunities. Temple has attempted 16.6 shots per game this year, an increase of more than 50 percent from last year’s 10.1 shots per game.

“It also helps that there’s healthy competition within the team,” O’Connor said. “Last year it was easy for girls to get comfortable. This year we’ve been going 19 to 20 players deep in some games, so everyone must continue working for their playing time.”

Because of the team’s depth, the use of advanced analytics has been key, O’Connor added. The fifth-year coach and his staff use InStat Scout to size up opponents. The program tracks player combinations that lead to more scoring opportunities and singles out zones of the field that could be better utilized.

“It can be a great tool when you’re trying to coach a player to do something a little bit differently,” O’Connor said. “Sometimes just telling them to do something to create more scoring opportunities isn’t as effective as actually showing them.”

“Playing different roles or playing with so many different combinations of players is different than how I used to play in my career before Temple,” freshman midfielder Emma Wilkins said. “I think this is better though because you can get so many positive elements from everyone’s game more so this way.”

Temple has received offensive contributions from several players. Seven players scored in the team’s win on Sunday against Delaware State.

Junior forward Kerri McGinley, who only played nine games and recorded five shots last season, leads the team with eight points. She had a goal and an assist off the bench on Sunday. McGinley is tied with senior forward Gabriella McKeown for the team lead with three goals.

Seven of the 13 players who have recorded points are freshmen or sophomores. Wilkins and freshman midfielder Julia Dolan have combined for seven points.

Dolan scored her first goal with a game-winner in overtime to defeat Fairleigh Dickinson University in the season opener.

Wilkins, who led Absegami High School in South Jersey in goals during her senior season, has continued finding the back of the net with the Owls. She scored two goals in a 3-1 win against Rider University on Aug. 31 and assisted McKeown’s first goal of the season in a 2-0 win against Mount St. Mary’s University on Sept. 3.

“A lot of the freshmen that have come in have definitely helped in converting on more scoring chances,” McKeown said. “We also have a lot of people who can come off the bench and play just as well as a lot of the starters.”

O’Connor said the midfield depth that exists was not there in 2016. As a result, McKeown has assumed the role of an attacking player this season.

“Wherever I’m needed most I feel comfortable playing,” McKeown said. “It’s definitely a little bit easier when I’m playing on offense, but I like being able to run up and down the field and play defense as a midfielder too.”

O’Connor doesn’t remember having this much depth on any other team he has coached, he said. He enjoys having several on-field combinations that work well together and put goals on the scoreboard.

“You start figuring out who is comfortable passing to who or which players mesh best together,” O’Connor said. “Having this many options to play with is just something I’ve never had at my disposal before.”

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