After scoring 22 goals last year, Temple University field hockey (7-1, 1-0 Big East Conference) has already scored 27 through its first eight games this season, marking its best start as a program since 1985. Their current five-game win streak is a stark contrast to the five-game losing streak they went on from Oct. 10 to Oct. 24 last year.
After a full offseason under head coach Michelle Vittese, the Owls focused on finishing and setting plays to bring a revamped approach to their sometimes stagnant 2021 offense.
“I feel like we’ve really been putting in the work since last spring and I feel like our program is growing,” said sophomore midfielder Tess Muller. “We’ve all been very focused on the things we needed to work on from last year.
The Owls have progressed on their offense and possession tactics in several areas through eight games, but they must overcome slow starts to keep up their winning streak.
The Owls have scored a combined 18 goals in their last four games, with six coming in a comeback victory against conference rival Quinnipiac University on Sept. 16.
Currently, Temple is outscoring opponents 20-6 on their five-game win streak. Attackers like junior forward Maddie Molchany and sophomore forward Julianne Kopec have brought a composed presence in front of the net.
The Owls have five players who scored three or more goals and three players with four or more assists this year. By working the ball around the defense before finding midfielders and attackers, Vittese’s possessive field hockey style has opened up more scoring opportunities for the Owls.
Molchany was a key player in winning against Long Island University (3-5, 0-0 The Northeastern Conference) and Bucknell University (2-5, 1-0 The Patriot League), securing a goal and an assist over the LIU Sharks and scoring the game-winning goal against the Bucknell Bison.
“In previous years, we have had trouble when it comes to scoring,” Molchany said. “But I think this year we have really worked hard and have improved our game.”
FOCUS ON POSSESSION
Defensively, Temple has controlled possession of the ball to limit scoring chances from the opposition, allowing just 31 shots on goal so far this season.
When opponents do attack the net, senior goalkeeper Molly Frey has been able to stop them. Frey has 14 saves on the year with a .750 save percentage, which ranks 17th-best in the country.
Temple defenders, like senior McKenna Burkhardt and graduate student Nienke Oerlemans, are focusing on their control of the ball to prevent forced errors coming out of the back and allowing for a well-balanced team when in possession. Burkhardt and Oerlemans are two of the older starters on this team, so with their experience comes greater communication out of the back, leading to fluid ball movement.
“There has been a massive growth in our maturity and leadership,” Vittese said. “And honestly a kind of swagger, like they believe in themselves and trust their teammates.”
But with more possession comes a greater possibility of mistakes:
SLOW STARTS TO GAMES
Temple had several early turnovers that led to three first-half scores for the Quinnipiac Bobcats. While their six-goal second half comeback gave the Owls the win, it was the game’s rough start that saw them behind.
Temple has been unable to find their rhythm until the middle of the second quarter on several occasions this season because they start off with less energy than they finish with.
However, Temple came out of halftime looking like a revived team, playing with more energy and aggressiveness than in the first 30 minutes.
“I think that playing discipline for a full 60 minutes is an elite skill and something that we have to work on moving forward,” Vittese said.
Turnovers aside, the Owls looked like the stronger team in all of their games except for their one loss to No. 12 University of Virginia (4-3, 0-1 The Atlantic Coast Conference) on Sept. 2 due to the Cavaliers’ quick pace of play.
While Temple field hockey is in the midst of their conference schedule, the team is hoping growth off the field will translate to better results for all four quarters.
The Owls are starting to look like a team who can compete at a high level, especially with a balanced scoring attack. Talent alone won’t be the main factor for the Owls, though. A winning mentality comes from building camaraderie on North Broad.
“I think just being very connected with the team, and having the trust on the field,” Muller said. “I feel like I am having more fun every day.”
The Owls play away against Villanova University (5-2, 0-1 The Big East) on Sept. 23.