Lackluster season ends, team points to injuries

Despite the fact that the Owls finished the season with a losing record and were knocked out in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament, coach Steve Mauro believes his team was one of the most talented in the league.

“I always think that we’ll come in Top 3 [at the beginning of the season],” Mauro said. “I think we were actually the second-best team in that tournament.”

After being picked to finish fourth in the 16-team conference at the beginning of the spring season, the Owls finished the regular season at 9-13. They received the ninth seed in the A-10 tournament, defeated eighth-seeded Saint Louis 4-1, and then lost to top-seeded Virginia Commonwealth University – who went on to win the tournament – 4-0.

“Overall, I am happy because we all worked hard in both practices and matches,” junior Alicia Doms said. “However, I am not that happy with our results. We lost against a few teams that were definitely winnable matches, especially against A-10 teams. To be honest, there is no reason why we should lose to any team in the A-10, because all our players are talented and capable to win.”

Temple went 3-6 in conference play, discounting the tournament. With the exception of a 5-2 victory against St. Joseph’s University at the Student Pavilion on April 11, all of Temple’s conference matches were away. The team played each of the Top 4 A-10 seeds in the regular season – VCU, Xavier, Massachusetts and Richmond – losing to them all. The Owls defeated the only bottom four seed they faced, St. Bonaventure.

“We’ve been battling injuries all year long,” Mauro said. “Three of our starters have had injury problems. I think if we could have gotten them healthy during the year, I think it would have been a different story. I’m not saying we would have beat VCU, but I think VCU and us would have been in the finals.”

Juniors Jordan Batey and Yana Mavrina both missed time with chest injuries. The team dealt with concussion issues during the course of the year, the most recent one by freshman Minami Okajima in the days leading up to the A-10 tournament. Maruo said Okajima was hit in the head by a ball, forcing her to sit out the opening round match.

“It was just a very strange year with injuries,” Mauro said.

Doms, the usual top-flight player, has been dealing with multiple injuries. She has left elbow tendinitis, which forces her to serve underhand. She also said her knees bother her when playing for an extended period of time.

“The first month [of summer], I will try to do treatment so I can recover, and then I will start playing again,” Doms said. “I will definitely be ready for the fall.”

“[In the summer], we train on our own,” freshman Jasmine Merali said. “Whatever you do is a lot of match play just to try to get ready for the fall season, and obviously the spring.”

Mauro said he has already signed one new recruit from Indonesia for the fall, and is looking to sign one or two more. The team is not losing anyone to graduation.

“Barring injuries, the two or three new girls we bring in will push everyone down in the lineup,” Mauro said. “We’ll actually be strong one through six. I think the difference between us and VCU was that they were a little bit stronger at the bottom of the lineup. We need to be strong as well down there.”

Doms won’t just give up her top-flight position, though.

“If I keep playing in first position, it will be a huge opportunity for me to play with the best players in the nation, so I am very excited,” Doms said.

Despite not doing as well as they had hoped this spring, players said they are excited and optimistic for next year.

“I think the team is going to improve a lot next semester and next year,” Merali said. “I know we have some new players coming in. With four seniors, it’s definitely going to be a strong team. Lots of experience among the players, so I think it’ll be good.”

Evan Cross can be reached at evan.cross@temple.edu or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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