Field hockey seniors give way to talented recruiting class

The Owls have verbal commitments from two top-50 players.

Senior midfielder and captain Rachael Mueller defends during the Owls’ overtime win against Sacred Heart University at Howarth Field on Sept. 24. | CHIA YU LIAO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

After her last practice ended, redshirt-senior forward Sarah Keer joked around with her teammates as she walked off Howarth Field.

Keer was trying to soak up as much as she could before she played in her last two games on Friday and Sunday. For the first time in her five seasons, Keer’s team will not play in a conference tournament.

Temple (4-14, 0-7 Big East Conference) finished last in the Big East and won one game out of its final seven. The Owls missed their conference tournament for the first time in coach Marybeth Freeman’s three seasons and for the first time since their 2-4 record in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2002.

Going back to 1988, Temple had never finished a season winless in its conference.

“It’s kind of disappointing we didn’t have a better result to our season,” Keer said. “But I’m lucky to have played as long as I did and with teammates I had.”

For the second year in a row, the Owls finished in the top five of Division I in defensive saves. Last year, Temple made 17 defensive saves to finish second, and the team had 13 for second this year.

A freshman led the team in defensive saves for the second consecutive year. Midfielder Dani Batze led the Owls with four this year. She started 14 games and played the fourth-most minutes on the team.

“Dani showed us a lot this season,” Freeman said. “Any time a freshman comes in and demands the amount of playing time that she did with her work ethic is amazing, and I’m looking forward to seeing her grow as a player.”

Batze and freshman midfielder and back Taylor Alba came to Temple as Max Field Hockey top-100 recruits from the high school class of 2017. Alba, a top-50 recruit,  started all 18 games and finished second in minutes behind sophomore back Becky Gerhart.

Temple has six verbal commitments from the high school Class of 2018, according to Max Field Hockey. Two of the commits are in the top 50 of graduating players.

Kerrie Lorenz, who is the 26th-ranked recruit and plays midfield for Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia, competed in the USA Field Hockey National Futures Tournament in June. Annie Judge, an incoming midfielder from Delaware, also played in the tournament.

Tali Popinko, a midfielder and forward and the 49th-ranked recruit, has 18 goals and 12 assists for Warren Hills Regional High School in New Jersey. Popinko is trying to help her team win its third state title in her four seasons.

Freeman couldn’t discuss the recruits because of an NCAA rule that bans coaches from talking about prospective players until they sign their National Letters of Intent.

The early signing period for field hockey and other non-revenue sports is from Nov. 8-15, and the regular signing period is from April 11 to Aug. 1, 2018.

The incoming class will replace four seniors — Keer, midfielder Rachael Mueller, midfielder and forward Maiyah Brown and forward Hattie Kuhns. Mueller, Brown and Kuhns were the team’s captains this season.

Each senior was among the Owls’ top five players in shot attempts. Mueller led the team in scoring, Keer tied for second and Brown was tied for fourth.

Mueller is among 38 athletes selected to play in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division I senior game on Nov. 17 at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

“All of the seniors have had impacts on and off the field, especially with their leadership,” Freeman said. “The impact they had on the younger players, showing how to play the Temple way, was huge for us as a coaching staff.”

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