The women’s soccer team packed three sets of practice uniforms, in hopes of a long stay at the American Athletic Conference tournament in Tampa, Florida.
Temple (7-11-1, 3-5-1 The American) came prepared to stay the entire duration of the conference tournament, but a 3-0, first-round loss to Central Florida on Oct. 31 sent the Owls home early.
Coach Seamus O’Connor said the Owls are disappointed they did not win, but he thinks the conference tournament appearance will motivate their 22 returning players to work harder during the offseason to be successful next year.
“They now have a taste of wanting to do it again,” O’Connor said. “This offseason, they’re going to put the work in. They like to be on that stage and want to be there longer and bring home a championship.”
Temple’s two biggest wins this season were against South Florida and the University of Maryland, O’Connor said. Temple defeated Maryland, 1-0, on Aug. 31 on a goal from sophomore forward Emma Wilkins.
Temple defeated USF, 1-0, in double overtime on a goal from freshman forward Gabriela Johnson on Sept. 30. USF was ranked 19th in the United Soccer Coaches poll at the time of the match. The win marked the first time Temple defeated a ranked opponent since 1995.
“We have to play like we did against USF and Maryland every single game,” O’Connor said. “That comes from having depth in the program. We just need to make sure we get a good recruiting class in that makes us a little deeper and the players have to continue to improve.”
Temple needs to improve on offense if it is to be successful next season, O’Connor said. The Owls ranked second to last in The American in goals. Temple only registered one goal in its last five games. In the conference tournament match, UCF outshot Temple 22-6.
Six Temple players — defenders Kelcie Dolan and Kat McCoy, midfielders Sarah McGlinn and Juliet Esposito, forward Kerri McGinley and goalkeeper Jordan Nash — will graduate after this season. Dolan was one of five players to start all 19 games. McGinley tallied two goals and one assist this season.
Temple’s returning players are the team’s “core group” and look to improve this offseason, junior goalkeeper Morgan Basileo said.
“As soon as the season’s over, we get right back at it,” Basileo said. “We’re here not just to play in the fall. We’re here to get better the entire year. Our focus in the spring is to get fitter and focus on our game plan more to prepare for the fall.”
But the Owls’ top four leaders in points –– Wilkins, Johnson and junior forwards Jules Blank and Morgan Morocco –– will all return. Wilkins led the team with six goals. Johnson scored five goals, Blank scored three and Morocco scored two.
Johnson is a vital piece to the Owls’ future success, O’Connor added. Johnson was named to The American’s All-Rookie Team. Johnson played in all 19 games this season and scored game-winning goals against Houston and USF.
O’Connor said opponents adjusted to Johnson’s game as the year progressed. She didn’t score and had just one point in her last five games.
“[Johnson] has improved a lot,” O’Connor said. “It’s just getting her into positions to be successful. Unfortunately, as the season went on, our opponents knew about her. She has a good bit to go. She wants to build on her freshman success.”
O’Connor is excited about his team’s potential to excel on defense next season. In 2018, the Owls were ranked sixth in The American in goals allowed with 26. Last year, they allowed 29 goals. Temple also recorded six shutouts this season.
Sophomore defender Aisha Brown, who started all 19 games this season, will return after The American named her First Team All-Conference. Brown became the first Owl to make a conference’s first team since Lori Brennan in 1999 and is a “huge part” of the Owls’ defense, O’Connor said.
The Owls will also return Basileo, the conference leader in saves who started in all but two games and recorded 98 saves.
This season, Temple returned to the conference tournament for the first time since 2015 and fell to 0-4 in postseason play in The American. Before the Owls’ 2013 conference tournament appearance, they hadn’t played in the postseason since 1995.
Next year, Temple looks to return to the conference tournament for the second straight season and make a run.
“We don’t just want to return,” Basileo said. “We want to come home with the trophy and put Temple’s name on the map, in terms of women’s soccer. Hopefully, we’ll make the NCAA Tournament, which is our overall goal. That will really exciting.”