After defeating Albany, 4-3, the women’s soccer team improved to 4-1-1. Last year, the Owls finished 4-11-4.
After getting off to a fast start, sophomore midfielder Niki Conn and the women’s soccer team are hopeful that the problems of last season are a thing of the past.
Fueled by two goals from Conn, the Owls defeated the Albany Great Danes on Sunday, 4-3. With the win, Temple’s record now stands at 4-1-1. The four wins equal the victory total from last season, and the team’s success has been a result of a changed mentality, coach David Jones said.
“We returned a lot of players this year. Everybody came in pretty fit and with the right attitude,” Jones said. “Part of it is luck, but we’ve made a bunch of that luck for ourselves.”
“We want this for each other,” Conn added. “We’re playing for each other, which is a big difference from last year, when we were just playing for ourselves.”
As for Conn, her two goals in the win over Albany give her six for the year, which leads the Cherry and White. As the season progresses, Conn and Jones said they’re aware that opposing teams are likely to hone in on Conn defensively.
“We think we have four or five kids that can score at this level,” Jones said. “We hope people start keying in on Niki because I’ll tell you, there are other players on this team that can be dangerous.”
“I’m not the only one scoring,” Conn said. “We have about seven players this year that have scored for us, so I’m confident in their abilities.”
While Conn is the undisputed focal point of the offense, Jones will look to players like freshman midfielder Kate Yurkovic and sophomore forwards Allicia Yurkovic and Nicky Petrillo to provide a consistent scoring threat.
Defensively, the Cherry and White return senior midfielder/defenseman Carly Metzger and junior defenseman Julia Adden. Together, the duo combined to start 35 games last year. Also expected to see significant playing time are junior Liz Roper and sophomore Tiia Kuokka, who finished second on the team in assists last year.
In the net, junior goalkeeper Kara Williams has gone down with an injury, opening the door for freshman goalkeeper Gillian Kacsuta to start.
“Gil’s worked hard. She’s done well,” Jones said. “She was probably a little nervous the first game, but she’s gotten a couple of games under her belt now, so she’s fine.”
The transition from Williams to Kacsuta has been a flawless one, largely in part to the experience in the defensive backfield.
“We have pretty much everybody returning in the back,” Jones said. “They’re pretty comfortable with their positions, so it’s just another player in goal. Everybody’s been very supportive of Gil.”
As a whole, Jones appears to be confident in his team’s ability, but he does see a few weaknesses in the squad.
“Some of the girls are probably unsure about what they can and can’t do,” Jones said. “It’s all about building confidence week in and week out. Every game’s been a battle, so that’s helped.
“We also need to start feeling comfortable,” Jones added. “If we fall down a goal, we have to know we can come back and score the equalizer. It’s an attitude that’s going to take some time to learn.”
Despite these weaknesses, the Owls seem to believe they have the talent to make a postseason run.
“We can make the A-10 tournament,” Jones said. “Early on, we’re going to surprise some people. Once we get to the tournament, not too many teams are going to want to play us.”
“I think we have a pretty good chance at making the tournament,” Conn said. “We’re trying to go for the NCAA Tournament, but it’s a long journey to get there.”
The Owls travel to New York this weekend to play Binghamton and Niagara before starting conference play at Dayton Sept. 25.
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.