As time expired on Thursday, Temple’s seniors gathered on the 40-yard line at Villanova Stadium and hugged, enjoying their last moments on the field in cherry and white.
For the second straight year, the University of Florida, ranked No. 2 in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Poll, ended the Owls’ (13-5, 6-3 Big East Conference) season in the postseason tournament.
In 2016, the teams met in the championship game, where the Owls lost 16-4. This year, the Gators bested the Owls, the fourth seed in the four-team tournament, in the semifinals, 21-9.
Coach Bonnie Rosen said Temple played its best team game of the year.
“It was an ultimate experience to end your career on,” graduate attacker Brenda McDermott said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Prior to this season, only two of the seven seniors had been regular starters. But after losing 12 seniors to graduation in 2016, Rosen asked the next group of seniors to step up.
“They taught me how to win and how to lose and how to do everything as a team,” freshman goalkeeper Maryn Lowell said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better senior class.”
McDermott, who returned for a fifth year of eligibility after she received a medical redshirt for her freshman year, anchored the senior group. She wasn’t sure if she would come back, but after losing in the 2016 Big East championship game, McDermott felt she had unfinished business.
She led the team with 42 goals, 32 assists and 74 points to help it reach its second straight Big East tournament. She also helped lead the team to a 13-2 start, tying the Owls’ start in 1997. Last year, Temple had to place in the top four in an eight-team league. Two more schools, Butler University and a nationally ranked University of Denver squad, joined the conference prior to the 2017 season, making qualifying for the postseason more challenging.
The conference’s preseason coaches’ poll picked the Owls to finish fifth in the conference. The team tied its 13-win mark from last season and 2008, when the Owls made their last NCAA tournament appearance.
“It’s a really special team,” McDermott said. “Every single person brings so much to the team. Every single day, you don’t know who is going to step up and do something different, and I think that’s what really makes us special.”
Temple won eight of its 13 games by two goals or less, including an overtime win against Marquette University and a come-from-behind win against Vanderbilt University.
The win against Marquette on March 25 at Howarth Field started a six-game winning streak. Temple made the conference tournament despite having a negative goal differential in league play.
“They are believers,” Rosen said. “They believe that anything can happen. They believe in happiness and they believe that the next moment can always be what they want.”
McDermott and senior midfielder Morgan Glassford earned first-team all-Big East selections for the second straight year.
Glassford led Temple with 73 draw controls in 2017 and graduates with 174 for her career. She became Temple’s all-time draw control leader in its win against Villanova on April 8.
Junior defender Nicole Latgis earned all-Big East second-team honors. Latgis led Temple with 26 caused turnovers.
Temple’s two goalkeepers, Lowell and redshirt-freshman Kelsea Hershey, dealt with the task of filling the shoes of Jaqi Kakalecik, who played in all 19 games last year and ranked No. 8 in Division I in goals against average.
“I think they both have a ton of potential,” Rosen said. “For both of them to have had a chance to get in this game [Thursday] and see what they can do against a team like Florida was really great.”
As for next year, Rosen hopes to see her team back in the Big East championship game.
“This year serves as this interesting bridge of what we achieved last year and a program that expects to get back to a Big East championship every year,” Rosen said. “I think the character and makeup of next year’s team is going to be the result of what they learned this season. The expectations have been raised.”
Tessa Sayers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SayersTessa.