After losing 2016 campaign, women’s soccer looking for fresh start

The Owls open their season Friday night against Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

Senior midfielder Elana Falcone, pictured as a sophomore in 2015, scored the lone goal in Temple's win against East Carolina on Thursday. | TOM REIFSNYDER / TTN FILE PHOTO

There’s no way to sugarcoat the struggles of last year’s women’s soccer season.

The Owls (3-16, 0-9 American Athletic Conference) posted the worst record in coach Seamus O’Connor’s tenure since he became assumed the role in 2013. The team finished the season on a 10-game losing streak.

The team is looking for a fresh start with a roster where 19 of the 30 players are either freshmen or sophomores. Because he has a young team, O’Connor decided to schedule two preseason scrimmages, one more than usual. The Owls dropped both of the scheduled scrimmages, taking a 3-0 loss at Hofstra University on Aug. 10 and a 3-2 loss against Drexel University on Sunday.

“The way we played in the two games was like night and day,” O’Connor said. “Hofstra had already played a game and it was our first time taking on another team all season, and then the way such a young team responded versus Drexel is great to see this early on.”

The games count starting Friday night when the Owls take on Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. The Knights have made four straight Northeast Conference tournaments and received one first-place vote in this year’s preseason poll.

Temple opened the 2015 season against Fairleigh Dickinson at the Ambler Sports Complex with a 3-0 win. Senior midfielder Elana Falcone scored the Owls’ third goal.

Fairleigh Dickinson (7-12-1, 5-2-1 Northeast) returns its top two scorers, senior midfielder Jessi Reinhardt and junior forward and midfielder Elma Kolenovic. Both earned first-team all-conference honors last year.

Temple also returns its top scorer, senior forward Gabriella McKeown. O’Connor said she “is playing the best soccer of her career right now.”

The Owls are led defensively by junior goalkeeper Jordan Nash, who accumulated 190 saves in 33 starts during her first two seasons. Sophomore goalie Cassy Skelton played exceptionally during the preseason, O’Connor said, making a strong case to get time in net this season.

“Over the course of the season, things change and injuries happen,” O’Connor said. “Having a lot of depth, it’s one of those good problems to have.”

Seven of the team’s 11 sophomores played at least nine games as freshmen. The coaching staff tried out players in various positions during the Owls’ two scrimmages to gain experience for both themselves and team chemistry.

O’Connor found he and his staff doing a lot more in-game coaching in the season’s first two scrimmages, which is a contrast from their usual style of letting the team play it out themselves.

Temple continues its nonconference schedule with its home-opener on Sunday against La Salle.

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