The timing was nearly perfect.
Moments after sophomore midfielder Elana Falcone scored to give Temple a one-goal lead against Lehigh University Sunday, the team performed a unique celebration to honor injured senior goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff.
Kerkhoff, the American Athletic Conference’s Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year, is out for the season with a broken right tibia, which she suffered in the first half of the Owls’ 2-1 loss to the University of Pennsylvania on Friday.
As the players grouped together and began running towards Temple’s home crowd, Falcone’s older sister, Tianna, picked up three hand-decorated signs and hurried them over to the sideline.
Each player took hold of at least one of the signs as they faced the crowd and shouted, “We love you, Shauni!”
The signs read, “Praying for #0,” “This one is for you” and “We love Shauni!”
In addition to those messages, each player on Temple’s roster signed their name and scribed at least one note of encouragement on the large, white boards.
Less than five minutes after the Owls’ display of support for their injured teammate, Kerkhoff made a surprise appearance with the help of teammate Madison Hileman and graduate athletic trainer Erika Johnson.
One-by-one, the Owls walked over to hug Kerkhoff as she laid under the shade of a tree with her right leg propped up and crutches by her side.
The outpouring of support for Kerkhoff has not been limited to her teammates, said coach Seamus O’Connor.
“It’s just amazing to see how Temple Athletics and Temple University responded, from President [Neil] Theobald on down,” O’Connor said. “He reached out to us, [Athletic Director] Dr. [Pat] Kraft reached out to us, [Senior Associate Athletic Director] Larry [Dougherty] was in constant contact with us, and even though everybody’s mind was on the Penn State football game, it just meant a lot to us to see everybody thinking about Shauni.”
Injuries became an unfortunately common theme throughout the weekend for the Owls, as redshirt junior Gina DiTaranto and sophomore Gabriella McKeown both went down in Temple’s 3-2 overtime loss to Lehigh on Sunday.
O’Connor said DiTaranto sustained a dislocated kneecap and McKeown is still under evaluation. McKeown’s injury seems to exclusive to her upper body as she could be seen wearing a wrap that spanned from her right shoulder down to her forearm.
There is no timetable yet for the return of DiTaranto or McKeown, but O’Connor said Kerkhoff, who underwent surgery Friday night, is surely done for the year.
“There’s a silver lining in this,” O’Connor said. “She’s going to get the opportunity to come back for us next year and hopefully provide some leadership because we’re going to apply for that redshirt waiver and hopefully the NCAA gives it to us.
Freshman Jordan Nash will be the Owls’ starting goalkeeper in Kerkhoff’s absence.
“She’s helped me so much,” Nash said of Kerkhoff. “I couldn’t have asked for anyone better than her.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @tom_reifsnyder.
Correction: In a print story that ran on Sept. 8, it was reported that Shauni Kerkhoff broke her fibula. In fact, Kerkhoff broke her tibia.