As soon as the ball hit her face, Katie Foran fell down onto the turf at Howarth Field.
While the training staff was attending to the senior forward, her teammates, in shock after seeing one of their leaders injured, were forced to regroup quickly, down a goal to Quinnipiac University in Friday’s Big East Conference game.
Without Foran — one of the team’s three captains — senior midfielder Paige Gross was the one to carry the team forward. Gross was vocal in the huddle following Foran’s injury, reminding the Owls to keep their focus on the game.
“I just told them that we needed to [win] for Katie,” Gross said. “I just wanted to make sure everyone knew that we needed to do this one for her.”
In a game it likely needed to stay in contention for a spot in the Big East tournament, Temple responded to Gross’ message, scoring the game’s final three straight goals to pick up a 3-2 victory against the Bobcats.
Coach Marybeth Freeman’s team has now won five of its last seven games. The Owls would be hard-pressed to pick a better time to go on this run. The team has its eyes on a berth in the Big East Conference tournament, which will be hosted by the Owls on Nov. 4 and 6.
Only four of the eight Big East teams will play in the tournament. With the win against Quinnipiac, Temple advanced to 3-3 in conference play, leaving it tied for fourth in the conference. Only Connecticut, sitting at 16-1 on the season and 6-0 in conference play, has clinched a playoff berth at this point.
The story of the Owls’ recent success has been strong defensive play. Temple’s opponents have scored 12 goals in the Owls’ last seven games, which is fewer than two goals per game. In comparison, teams scored 40 goals against Temple in its first nine games.
“We really made [individual defense] a priority,” Freeman said. “We surrounded our training programs around that [last week].”
The Owls play their last Big East game on Friday against Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Liberty is 4-2 in conference play, currently holding the No. 2 seed in the conference standings.
A win secures a spot in the Big East tournament, but a loss could keep the Owls out of the conference postseason.
Last year, Liberty beat Temple 3-2 in double overtime at Geasey Field.
“Going down to Virginia to play at Liberty is going to be tough,” Freeman said.
The Owls will finish off the regular season on Sunday at Howarth Field in a nonconference bout against Lafayette College that could either be a tuneup for the Big East tournament or Temple’s last game of the season.
Varun Sivakumar can be reached at email@example.com.