Kakalecik leads Owls defense in goal

The redshirt junior takes responsibility for the Owls’ defensive schemes.

Redshirt-junior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik protects the net in the Owls’ 17-3 loss to No. 8 Florida last Saturday. | Alex Beaufort TTN
Redshirt-junior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik protects the net in the Owls’ 17-3 loss to No. 8 Florida last Saturday. | Alex Beaufort TTN

The voice of Jaqi Kakalecik from Temple’s net can cut through cheering fans, players on the field and coaches shouting instructions.

The redshirt-junior goalkeeper constantly directs her teammates to where they need to be, and is always sure to be heard.

“She’s a really loud goalie,” junior midfielder Megan Tiernan said. “We can always hear her on defense, and she also comes up with some big saves at really important times, so it’s really great to have her back there. We can really depend on her.”

The goalkeeper’s game against then-No. 19 Delaware on March 14 was arguably the best by Temple’s defense all year, and possibly the best of Kakalecik’s career, evidenced by her career-high 13 saves.

“I think Delaware was our strongest defensive game,” junior captain defender Kara Stroup said. “They had a really strong attack, but we prepared for them and held them to six goals.”

“[Kakalecik] also had a spectacular game,” Stroup added. “It had to do with a whole defensive unit and effort.”

Hailing from Hunterdon Central High School, located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, Kakalecik came to Temple with high expectations from her coaches. As a high school senior, she was named  and won her team’s MVP award.

She was also ranked No. 17 on ESPN’s Rise list for goalkeepers to watch, but redshirted her first season as an Owl. In her first year of eligibility, Kakalecik saw limited action behind then-senior Meghan Clothier in the 2013 season, playing in only eight games, but she recorded a win against Lafayette College in one of them.

The 2014 season was her breakout year. After Temple lost four of its first six games, ninth-year coach Bonnie Rosen made the switch to Kakalecik as her starting goalkeeper. Although she posted a record of 5-6 in net, she earned second-team All-Big East Conference honors.

“Jaqi is on a mission,” Rosen said. “Not only to be a great goalkeeper, but to be someone the team can fully depend upon. I think ‘mature’ is absolutely the word used to describe her. Her play has become more disciplined, while the passion and athleticism that she naturally brings is still there.”

Now, with Temple boasting an 8-2 record, Kakalecik’s career-high 41.2 save percentage is evidence of her value to the Owls and her growth as a player.

“I think confidence has played a big role in [my growth],” Kakalecik said. “Just me learning to deal with getting scored on and turning it into a positive learning experience.”

Of course, she put most of the Owls’ defensive success on her teammates.

 “I think I have a role in the defensive communication,” Kakalecik said. “But overall, as a unit, we are really loud.”

The unit is boasting an 80 percent clear average, and has played a big part in the 92 turnovers the squad has caused. The Temple defense has also showed up in pressure situations, allowing only 44 goals in the second half to opponents compared to the 55 it has given up in the first half.

“This is a group of defenders that takes a tremendous amount of pride in defense,” Rosen said. “They are always up for a challenge. They are not the type of group to back down and they are not intimidated, so they come out even better in competition than they do in practice. … They spend time together studying their film. Not only are they always ready to play, but they are students of the game.”

Matthew Cockayne can be reached at matthew.cockayne@temple.edu or on Twitter @mattcockayne.

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