It’s a wall Temple has yet to move past.
A week ago, against the nation’s fourth-ranked team, the Owls were shut out by Duke. The result was the same seven days later, a 3-0 shutout, this time from No. 3 Maryland on Sunday.
“There is still a small gap between us and some of the upper echelon teams,” coach Amanda Janney said. “Right now, we’re still trying to match the speed and the gameplay of the top teams.”
The Terrapins outshot Temple 25-7, with 21 of those shots testing Owls senior goalie Lizzy Millen.
Temple redshirt senior goalkeeper Lizzy Millen made 17 saves on Sunday, easily trouncing her previous season-high of six saves, which came in the loss to the Blue Devils last week.
All three of Maryland’s goals were scored via penalty corners by senior midfielder/forward Maxine Fluharty in the 13th minute, freshman defender Carrie Hanks in the 23rd and junior defender Sarah Sprink in the 50th.
“They exposed us on our corner defense,” Millen said. “It just gives us something to focus on for Bucknell coming up Saturday.”
“We just made some crucial mistakes to give up some goals,” Janney said. “But it’s things that we need to get better on, and it’s good to know now and not in November.”
Ranked No. 16 for the time-being, Temple (4-2) is 1-2 this season against ranked teams within the nation’s Top 10.
The Owls shut out the University of Massachusetts, who entered the season with the No. 10 ranking, 2-0 to close out their opening weekend in Lancaster on Aug. 31. UMass, however, has struggled to a 2-4 record since.
In a somewhat similar situation last year, Temple earned an upset victory against the then-No. 6 ranked Penn State, but faltered against the University of Connecticut, ranked No. 8 at the time.
The Owls faced UConn in back-to-back weeks. A shutout to end the season, then another to knock Temple out in the first round of the postseason’s Big East Tournament.
The difference between then and now is Temple ran into the highly-ranked and eventual-national champion in November, the season finale and in the playoffs.
This fall, the challenges are coming much earlier.
“They’re in the Top 10 for a reason,” defender and co-captain Rachel Steinman said of Maryland after the game. “We scheduled these games on purpose.”
“We play teams that are good, while we continue to keep getting better as well,” Steinman added. “I wouldn’t necessarily say we get in trouble with them, especially this game. I don’t think the score reflected on how we played.”
While not as frequent as Maryland, Temple did coming up with some scoring chances. Three of the Owls’ seven shots landed on goal, and the team drew three penalty corners. The team came up with chances that could’ve made it a 3-2 game or a tie, Steinman said.
“We just got to focus on completely finishing [those chances],” she added. “We were so close today, and we thought we actually had the goal but the ref never called it so. We were right there, we were getting shots off, we were getting scoring opportunities.”
Although the Owls have found their way into the Top 20 rankings this season and last, there is still plenty to learn, and plenty of room to grow.
“I still think we’re a program that is developing,” Millen said. “[Maryland has] a long history of being a prestigious and competitive team. We’re just kind of getting our feet wet with this whole thing of being a Top 20 program.”
“We’re trying to be Top 10,” the co-captain added. “So they definitely showed us where our weaknesses are, and what we need to fix. It’ll help us at the end of the season.”
Temple will continue its season against a 4-1 Bucknell squad on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.