Amidst the excitement on Saturday in both South Bend, Ind. and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the Owls were having a big day of their own at Geasey Field.
Temple played its first official game as a Big East Conference affiliate and got off on the right track by beating the Ohio State Buckeyes 4-1. It was a good win for the Owls, but for the recently hired graduate assistant coach Danica Deckard, Saturday’s game had a bit more significance.
Deckard was on the sideline for her first game with head coach Amanda Janney and assistant coach Kelly Driscoll, just a few weeks after being announced as the new graduate assistant. In her first game, she helped guide the Owls against the team she played on for the past four years.
“It was definitely an eerie feeling,” Deckard said. “Obviously, I have a lot of pride in my alma mater. I loved playing there, I loved the coaches from there. It was a weird feeling, but I’m glad that we here at Temple were able to get the win.”
Deckard graduated from Ohio State last year, with an impressive four-year playing career and a bachelor’s in education and human ecology to show for it. She led the Buckeyes in goals in both her junior year with 11 goals and her senior year with 13 goals. She also earned two All-Big Ten Second Team selections.
Given the Owls’ situation as a new team in a more competitive conference, having someone with experience in a conference like the Big Ten could help them make the adjustment.
“I think the Big Ten, especially, plays a very physical game,” Deckard said. “There are a lot of tough players, and I think having that skill and bringing that into the Big East is something that will definitely help.”
It helped in Saturday’s win, according to Janney.
“Moving into a new conference, we have to be used to not being intimidated by big name teams.” Janney said.
“Having [Deckard] train with us, she helped get our team ready, so we weren’t intimidated,” Janney added. “The girls have been playing great against her in scrimmages and getting used to playing against other players. She helped us train to get ready for a big game like this.”
Deckard also puts an important emphasis on fitness, which is an aspect that has been important to the team in recent years.
“She seems really into field hockey as a whole and fitness as well, which has been a huge focus for our team in the past,” senior midfielder/defender Molly Doyle said after the announcement of Deckard’s hiring.
“After my freshman year, [Janney] set out to make the team more fit,” Doyle added. “I think she saw that we were really skilled players, but that a fitness piece was always missing when we were going up against really competitive teams. She really made it her mission to make fitness a priority on our team.”
The payoff from the heavier focus on fitness was present in Saturday’s win.
“You could see it in the game today,” Deckard said. “They came out and I thought that they looked very fit. They came in from the summer and the preseason very fit, so it works better because we are able to come and get right into playing.”
Deckard has not been at Temple for long, but her connection to the school goes back a few years. Janney tried to recruit her to the team as a player five years ago, but Deckard opted to go to Ohio State.
Although Deckard is here now, neither she nor Janney expected another opportunity for her to come to Temple.
“I knew a couple former players and they got me in contact with [Janney] and it all worked out,” Deckard said. “It all happened very quickly over the summer. I was never expecting to come back, but I’m glad to be here.”
“It worked out well for us,” Janney said. “We contacted her Ohio State coaches and they gave excellent recommendations of her. As soon as we knew that she was interested in going to grad school, we knew it was a perfect fit.”
The players were aware of Deckard’s connection to Ohio State. It was another factor that made them more excited to go out and win, along with it being the first game in a new conference.
“It’s a tough situation with her just coming from Ohio State, but it definitely made us all excited and wanting to come out there and win,” freshman forward Katie Foran said, who scored her first goal at the Division I level on Saturday.
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @itssnick215.