Temple is still a dark horse team in the Big East Conference, at least in the mind of Lizzy Millen.
“We always feel like underdogs,” Millen, the Owls’ redshirt senior goalkeeper, said.
The Owls finished last season at a 14-6 mark, with a national ranking for the first time in 12 years. The year was a positive debut in the Big East Conference, but that hasn’t changed the mentality of the team.
“It’s going to be important for us to not…[we have to] stay humble and keep ourselves in that kind of underdog mentality, so we don’t overestimate our abilities against some of the really big opponents,” senior midfielder and co-captain Nicole Kroener said. “That’ll be super important for us, and just to really outwork and make sure we have strong ball movement.”
Although Temple’s 2013 season was one of measurable success, the team had more struggles when it came to playing other ranked teams.
Although pulling out an upset 3-0 win against then No. 6-ranked Penn State on Sept. 6, and a 1-0 shutout of No. 20 Drexel on Oct. 20 of last year, five of Temple’s six losses were to nationally-ranked teams that ended up making it into the NCAA Tournament.
Senior forward Amber Youtz, the Owls’ leading scorer in 2013, hasn’t forgot about those games, especially the last two.
Temple was blanked 7-0 by Connecticut in the regular season finale, and with the fourth seed in the Big East Tournament secured, the Owls were locked to face the top-seeded Huskies a week later.
Another shutout from UConn was the result, a final score of 3-0.
“That showed us that we still had a lot of work to do,” Youtz said. “A lot of training to do over the summer, and that we still have a lot to prove to the Big East and show what were made of.”
“I think we didn’t know how good UConn was at the time,” 10th-year coach Amanda Janney said. “They proved it, and at the end of November they did a great job to represent the Big East and win the national championship. That kind of gave us more motivation, that we’re playing against the very best in the nation.”
Temple will get another shot at UConn on Nov. 1, when the Huskies travel to Geasey Field. Both games from last season were in Connecticut.
The team started off the season with a weekend sweep in the Conference Cup tournament at the Spooky Nook complex in Lancaster, defeating Northeastern 4-2 on Friday and the University of Massachusetts 2-0 on Sunday.
Temple won’t have its home opener until Sept. 12 against Delaware, with road games against Rutgers and Duke scheduled for this weekend.
UMass will enter the weekend ranked No. 10 in the nation, after going 16-4 and winning the Atlantic 10 before falling to No. 5 Duke in the NCAA Quarterfinals.
Last season’s ending put Temple one spot out of qualifying for the national tournament. The Owls are returning with most of the roster intact, losing three seniors, but adding six freshmen into the mix.
Temple is projected to finish third in the Big East, according to the preseason coaches’ poll. But despite most of the roster returning, players say they still have work to do.
“We’re not a team that expects anything to be given to us,” Youtz said. “We still have to prove ourselves to the hockey world.”
“We were so close we could pretty much taste it,” Kroener , who led the team in assists last season with 10, said. “So hopefully it will be a big motivator for us this fall.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @itssnick215