For much of the season, field hockey coach Amanda Janney has contended the Owls’ first games of the season were not the best indicator of how well they could play in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
After all, the Owls dropped six straight games following a season-opening win at Lehigh.
But with their 2-1 win over city and conference rival Saint Joseph’s on Sunday, the Owls finished the season 6-1 in A-10 play, their best record since entering the conference in 1989.
Janney said her team’s greatly-improved play started at the beginning of the season, right after the losing streak.
“We are getting better with every single game,” Janney said. “It took so long in the beginning to get back on track, but now that we are, the team is focused and we’re really playing great.”
The Owls (11-9, 6-1) scored both of their goals late in the first half Sunday. Senior midfielder Jen Adamek scored, with an assist from senior forward Melissa Fritze. Sophomore midfielder Alli Lokey added another goal – her eighth of the season – with five minutes left in the period to give the Owls a 2-0 lead heading into intermission.
Shooting was limited in the second half for the Owls, as they managed only four shots. St. Joe’s took seven shots, with one resulting in a goal from midfielder Maureen Casserly.
The Owls were kept off the board in the second half, but they kept St. Joe’s from tying the game late.
Janney said she was pleased with how the game was played, crediting the Owls’ defense in the win.
“The team played some of the best hockey I’ve seen all season. The passing today was beautiful,” Janney said. “And [senior defenseman Katie] Stevenson’s been such a huge presence for us in the backfield. She really is the quarterback back there and controls everything.”
The Owls closed their regular season by honoring their seven seniors. At the end of the A-10 tournament, the team will lose midfielder Adamek, forwards Fritze and Rachel Barber, and defensemen Dannon Mehaffey, Talia Ruth, Ashley Shepps and Stevenson.
The departing players said they were glad to finish their regular season on a positive note.
“I’m going to miss playing, but I’m excited since we haven’t played this well over the past few years and we’ve never been this confident going into the A-10’s,” Fritze said.
The Owls have had two .500 records in the last five seasons, but this year’s 11-9 record was their first above-.500 season since 1992. Stevenson said the Owls’ first winning record since that 11-8-2 campaign was refreshing.
“It’s our first winning season in a while,” she said. “We didn’t start out the way that we really wanted to [this year], but to go out with a winning record is awesome.”
Beginning Friday, Temple will host the A-10 Championships at Geasey Field.
The No. 2 seed Owls play No. 3 seed Massachusetts at 2 p.m.. Top-seeded Richmond will face St. Joe’s, the No. 4 seed. The championship game will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Shepps said the Owls are confident they can bring home the title.
“We’re hoping to win [Game 1] so that we can play Richmond in the championship game,” Shepps said.
Assistant coach Ryan Langford agreed.
“How this team will do in the tournament, well, the sky’s the limit,” he said.
A conference championship would be the Owls’ first since 1994. That year also marked the last time the Owls earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at email@example.com.