Last year’s lacrosse team finished a program-worst 4-12 and lost 10 consecutive games at one point, but Temple won four of its last six games and returned all but three players.
The lacrosse team has set high goals for itself this year following a disappointing 2009 season, and coach Bonnie Rosen is committed to setting Temple up for success in 2010.
Two seasons ago, the Owls celebrated an Atlantic Ten Championship and a NCAA Tournament appearance. Last year, they had their worst season in program history and finished 4-12. The Owls opened up the 2009 season with 10 consecutive losses. Struggling with turnovers because of youth and inexperience, the team played with just seven upperclassmen and nine freshmen, a lot of whom saw significant playing time in their first season.
Following a win against A-10 rival Richmond, the team began to blossom and finished the season by winning four of its last six games. Senior defender Tracy Zimmer and junior attacker Ann Stouffer, co-captains of this year’s team, simultaneously agreed that it took some time for the team to “mesh.”
Rosen said she and the Owls have learned from what happened last year and are ready to move forward. They will focus on returning to the A-10 Tournament this year and building on the end of the 2009 campaign.
“We haven’t focused at all on last year,” Rosen said. “This is a brand-new team. It’s the strength of returning just about every single player and then adding a great group.”
Only three players did not return to the team from a season ago, and the Owls have added eight new pieces.
“We didn’t lose many people from last year, and we also gained a lot of people. So, in a way, we’re just building on the end of last season,” Stouffer said. “At the same time, we have an opportunity to have a whole new look on our season.”
The 2010 team will feature four seniors led by Zimmer and goalkeeper Jessica Colucci, two of only three players to start all 16 games last year. Attacker Chelsea Rosiek scored 13 goals and added 14 assists a season ago. Lindsey Colferai has provided a spark on offense over the years, Rosen said.
The junior class has experienced two very different seasons in their first two years. Those Owls won an A-10 Championship as freshmen and then lost 10 straight games as sophomores. Rosen said they will be crucial if the team plans to return to glory. Stouffer scored 12 goals a year ago. Nicholle St. Pierre will also contribute on offense. Jennifer Homka and Alexandra Shapiro are capable of playing the midfield and defense positions, while Katie Phillips provides depth behind Colucci at goalkeeper.
The sophomores can only go up from last year’s disappointing first season. Kelsey Zunek started all 16 games last year as a freshman. Melissa Schweitzer is the leading scorer of all returning players. Keelin Hood, Lauren Caminiti, Allison McWilliams and Karly Cohen all saw significant playing time a year ago and should expect more this season. Tess Bishop looks to be the next-in-line for the goalkeeping duties.
The Owls also welcome two transfer players in Stephanie Markunas and Shelby Christopher. Rosen recruited both Markunas, from Penn State, and Christopher, a Drexel transfer, prior to their freshmen seasons away from Temple.
The freshman class features six new players, all of whom Rosen said she expects to contribute immediately. Kellee Pace, Emily Fine, Charlotte Swavola and Stephany Parcell are all midfielders. Antonia Falcone and Megan Chlada can both contribute at midfield and defense.
Temple opens its season Wednesday with a road contest at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights defeated the Owls, 16-9, at Geasey Field a season ago in the opening contest of the year.
“We opened with them last year with a loss, so it’s a good opportunity to get revenge and try and set the tone for the season,” Rosen said.
The season’s second half will be spent at the friendly confines of Geasey Field. The Cherry and White will play six of their last eight regular-season games at home. Four of those games are important A-10 games against Massachusetts, Duquesne, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s.
Though the Owls’ eyes are set on a return to the A-10 Championship game, a possible NCAA Tournament berth is also on their wish list. This year’s conference tournament is scheduled for mid-April, which gives the Owls time to play two more games to end the regular season. They will square off against No. 16 Towson and No. 17 Penn State in their final two games, in hopes of building their tournament résumé should they not receive an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament by winning the A-10.
“The idea is we don’t have to sit around and just practice for weeks before we go to the NCAA Tournament,” Rosen said. “It’s set up to give us good competition and have two strong games to put ourselves in a position to get an at-large bid as well.”
The Owls are prepared to return to glory, and Rosen said she believes they have the talent to do so.
“I feel [the team] can only look to move forward and get back to that point,” Stouffer said. “And it’s our job as captains to do that.”
Joe Serpico can be reached at email@example.com.