The season started out rough for Temple.
Ten games in heading into Saturday, the Owls were 3-7. They struggled to find consistency.
But the Owls were firing on all cylinders Saturday afternoon, earning their first ever Big East game, 12-10, against Big 5 rival Villanova.
“It’s great,” senior attacker Jaymie Tabor said. “It’s a relief. It’s what we’ve been waiting for, so hopefully we will continue to do that.”
“In every way this game feels great,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “Just winning in general feels good. Playing an upbeat, fast style offense felt good today and then yes, beating a very good team in our conference to give ourselves a chance to start moving towards a bid to the conference tournament is a big win.”
Tabor led the way on offense for Temple, scoring four goals and an assist. Saturday’s win was Tabor’s seventh multi-goal game this season and her fifth with a hat-trick or greater.
But that all factored into the Owls’ biggest focus for the day.
“Score,” Tabor said. “Really our goal was to score. We were just trying to push our fast breaks because we’re really good with our fast breaks, but they’ve been lacking in past games. So we were really trying to push the fast break to get our intensity up and we really came out strong.”
Tabor wasn’t alone in getting on the board. Sophomore attacker Rachel Schwaab recorded a hat-trick, her first of the season, and freshman midfielder Morgan Glassford put up two goals. Midfielders Nicole Tiernan, Megan Pinkerton and Kelly Syphard each scored a goal.
Tiernan opened up the scoring, getting a pass from senior midfielder Lea Britton on a break, then heading right to the net and firing a shot past Villanova’s sophomore goalkeeper Jaclyn Fraum.
Not even two minutes in and Temple already had a lead, but the Owls added another when Schwaab scored with 26:30 left in the first half to put them up 2-0.
After a goal by the Wildcats’ junior midfielder Hannah Goforth, Tabor answered with an unassisted goal to put the Owls back up by two.
However, Villanova went on a run of four unanswered goals from there, with two from Goforth to complete the hat-trick, and then two from sophomore attacker Kelsey Denihan, putting the Wildcats up 5-3 with 11:50 left in the first.
That was Villanova’s only lead.
Temple bounced back with unassisted goals from Schwaab and Pinkerton, then pulled ahead with Tabor’s second goal of the day and Glassford’s first.
Villanova was able to catch up within the first five minutes of the second half, with goals from freshman midfielder Becca Hetrick and sophomore attacker Meghan Breen, but a free position goal from Schwaab and a goal from Syphard put the Owls back up by two near the 20-minute mark.
Breen scored back-to-back goals in a span of two minutes to tie it back up at nine, but once again, Temple pulled ahead with goals from Tabor and Glassford.
With less than six minutes left, Denihan scored to complete Villanova’s third hat-trick of the day and put the Wildcats within one.
However, Glassford was able to get a pass to Tabor that allowed her to step right in front of the net and fire a shot past Fraum for the game’s final goal.
The goal came with 4:36 left to play, and Temple was able to run out the clock from there.
Redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik notched her first win of the season, after a great start in net. Kakalecik made a career-high 10 saves, which included a key stop towards the end of the first half against Villanova’s sophomore midfielder Tierney Griff and two saves within the final minutes of regulation against Chelsey Henderson and Mariah Salerno.
Kakalecik also made several saves on free position shots.
“I was just trying to stay as relaxed as possible,” Kakalecik said. “The last few games I didn’t really play that well and I think it was just because I was getting myself a little too hyped up and excited, so I was just trying to relax as much as I could.”
“Jaqi came up huge,” Rosen said. “Right at the end in particular, coming up with a couple of those key stops. Her presence in the cage is always something that makes opponents think twice about how they’re going to shoot and it was a huge team effort today and I can’t even point to the number of big plays that actually occurred.”
The win against Villanova was nice, but the focus will shift right to next Saturday’s home game against Louisville.
“It feels great,” Kakalecik said of the win. “We’re ready to celebrate a little bit at the tailgate right now, but then it’s back to work on Monday to get the next one.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @itssnick215.