It’s been a roller coaster ride of emotions for the Owls this season. The last three years they’ve dominated, but with a youthful squad this year they’ve struggled to keep their heads above the water.
An 11-10 crushing loss to Delaware yesterday at Geasey Field didn’t help matters. Nor did a late turnover, which ultimately doomed the Owls.
Coming into the game Temple (7-7, 4-1) was riding a four-game winning streak. In its last three wins it had exploded for 20-point outbursts.
By halftime the Owls trailed 5-2 and seemed incapable of handling the Blue Hens’ (5-10, 3-5) harassing defense.
“We didn’t play well in the first half,” coach Kim Ciarrocca said. “We got beat to the ball and we had a lot of turnovers.”
“We’re more of a second half team to begin with,” said senior Tiffany Pulaski, who earned Atlantic Ten Player of the Week honors. “We finally realize 30 minutes later what we have to do right.”
Temple came out with a vengeance in the second half. Led by sophomore midfielder Corey Leader’s back-to-back goals and an assist, the Owls looked rejuvenated. With 8 minutes, 19 seconds left she put the Owls on top 9-8.
“I expected this to be a back-and-forth match,” Ciarrocca said. “But they [Delaware] were the better team today.”
With the score knotted at 10, Temple held possession and a golden opportunity to put the game away. Ciarrocca ordered a substitution to send a player into the attack zone. The problem: the Owls had too many players in the zone, which gave possession back to the Hens.
On the ensuing possession the Blue Hens scored the game-winning goal with 35 seconds left, leaving the Owls upset with the officiating and each other.
Last year the Owls also dropped a one-point decision at Delaware, so yesterday’s loss was even tougher to accept.
“We got caught offside, we had a substitution and we didn’t communicate well enough,” conceded Ciarrocca. “Coaches didn’t and neither did the players and we lost the game.”
Pulaski, who had tied the game, said it was a miscommunication between the players. The loss spoiled a string of sensational plays from Pulaski. After tying a school-record with 10 goals against Lafayette, she netted five goals and an assist over the weekend.
Before the game the Owls’ four seniors, including Pulaski, defenders Maria DesMarias, Erin Malany, and Mary Fran Stepek, were honored. All four have played critical roles for the Owls during their reign as three-time A-10 champs, compiling an overall record of 47-24.
Still, Pulaski and Ciarrocca didn’t give much thought to the final home game of the year. Instead, both stressed the urgency to win the last two games of the season.
“We still have two more games,” Pulaski said. “It means we’ll never play on this field again. Our next two games are the most important of the season.”
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.