The Oxford American Dictionary defines “serene” as “calm and cheerful.”
Temple field hockey opponents, on the other hand, probably call the Owls’ standout goalie and captain Serene McGrath something else.
In her illustrious career in between the posts, the 5-4 senior stopper has denied over 500 potential goals, in over 3,500 minutes of playing time, recording eight shutouts. Pretty impressive considering that in an effort to concentrate on schoolwork, she didn’t even join the team until the second semester of her freshman year.
McGrath, an Elementary and Special Education major, started playing field hockey as a freshman at Little Flower High School in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia. She didn’t begin goaltending until after a few weeks of playing.
“I just wanted something to do,” she said. “I wanted to put the pads on and give it (goaltending) a shot, and I’ve liked it ever since.”
McGrath used to commute to her high school from her hometown of Cinnaminson, N.J. She led her high school team to the Catholic semifinals, while being named an all-star by the Northeast Times from 1994 through 1996.
McGrath has been a leader for Temple as well. For example, she shut out Penn on Oct. 10, 1-0, making 15 saves.
“We needed a shutout,” she said of the Penn performance. “It felt good to walk out of there with no regrets.”
Sometimes McGrath’s goalkeeping efforts go unheralded when her teammates cannot respond with more goals of their own. Temple has struggled to find offense this season, losing three 1-0 games this year.
But McGrath doesn’t blame her teammates.
“It’s a team effort,” she said. “You lose as a team and you win as a team. If I make the winning save, I don’t look at is as I won the game. My team has won this game; I just did my job.”
Lately, McGrath has been sharing time in the cage with rising goalie April Herman. This is a departure from the last two seasons, when McGrath started virtually every game for the Owls.
But is there a controversy? Not at all. According to McGrath, the two have a great relationship.
“She (April) is going to be the only goalkeeper next year,” McGrath said. “She needs that time, she needs that experience.”
The two differ in goaltending styles as well.
“I feel like I’m pretty conservative,” McGrath said. “I like to approach a person one-on-one. I’m quick on my feet. I’m more efficient that way, and that’s where April and me differ. She’s aggressive on the ground. She’ll come out and slide and tackle.”
Before this year, McGrath felt the fury of big shot totals by the opposition. She deflected enough of them to end up third in the nation in saves in 1998 with 217.
This year the team is different, and the defense has improved.
“(This year) was a lot less nerve-wracking,” she said. “Now there’s more pressure (to make the save). Instead of facing 15 shots, I’m only facing eight. I’m used to being bombarded.”
As a captain, McGrath feels that leadership is very important, but that the efforts of the young players should not be ignored.
“The freshman have really stepped up,” she said. “We don’t have one superstar on this team. The whole team plays a role, and plays a big role.”
The next few road games are crucial for the Owls, who need wins against A-10 opponents to obtain a high seed in the tournament. McGrath feels that Temple has a chance to do something special this post-season.
“We have a lot of great players,” she said. “Something just clicked this year. We just need a few more road wins to stay on top, and hopefully win the championship.”