When the Owls broke their huddle after timeouts on Saturday afternoon, the team shouted “together” in unison.
It has been a mantra for the team all season, led by its 13 seniors, who were recognized before the team’s 10-4 win against Cincinnati at Geasey Field.
The win helped the Owls (11-5, 3-3 Big East Conference) stay in control of their own destiny as the team tries to make the Big East Tournament for the first time since leaving the Atlantic-10 Conference.
Because Georgetown University defeated Marquette University Saturday afternoon, if Marquette defeats Cincinnati on Friday and Temple beats Georgetown Saturday, all three teams would be 4-3 in conference play. The Owls would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Hoyas, who hold a tiebreaker against the Golden Eagles.
“That’s definitely what we want,” senior attacker Brenda McDermott said. “We want our playoffs to be in our own hands. We don’t want it to be in any other team’s so we knew the win was very crucial today to make sure we get that spot in the Big East playoffs.”
The Owls jumped out to an early 2-0 lead thanks to the efforts of McDermott, who scored the first goal and assisted on senior midfielder Nicole Tiernan’s goal 24 seconds later. She added two more goals to complete a first half hat-trick and help the Owls to a 5-1 halftime lead.
The Owls outshot Cincinnati 16-2 in the first half.
“We’ve been talking about trying to get on top first, because I think in some games we’ve come out a little flat and we’ve gone down two or three goals in the beginning and then we have to dig ourselves out of a hole,” McDermott, who also had three assists, said. “So we really wanted to come out and make a statement early and get a few goals in early.”
Cincinnati’s 29 fouls led to three free-position and man-up opportunities for Temple. The Owls anticipated a physical matchup with the Bearcats, who commit the most fouls per game in the Big East.
“We knew that Cincinnati would play an aggressive defense,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “They’re strong, and they’ve got some good speed, and they’re smart in how they get in the way of people. So we just did some work in practice handling the ball with people on you and giving a little contact, and we were prepared to pick up balls that got checked by having a teammate with us.”
The Bearcats came into play already eliminated from Big East playoff contention, having lost nine consecutive games. Rosen said she expected Cincinnati to be “scrappy” and “to come out with nothing to lose against us.”
The Bearcats tried to climb back into the game, scoring two goals in the first five minutes of the first half. Redshirt-senior attacker Megan Bell scored her team-leading 27th goal of the season and junior defender Skylar DeLemos followed it up 13 seconds later to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Rosen called a timeout to stop the momentum.
“I’ve seen Cincinnati play all year,” Rosen said. “They are a very resilient team and they come hard and they’re not afraid, so it was no surprise to me that they would make a run. And they made a run when we stopped doing the little things, so it was a very clear reminder to get going with the little things again. It was a combination between,’you can do it’ and ‘get it done now.’”
Junior attacker Carly Demato scored her second goal of the game, prompting a timeout by Bearcats coach Gina Oliver. After a Cincinnati goal, the Owls closed the game on a 4-0 run to close out the win. The Owls won 8-of-9 draw controls in the second half to dictate offensive play.
Junior midfielder Morgan Glassford had 3-of-12 draws for the Owls. She came into play with 64 draw controls, tied for the all-time single season draw control record set by Patience Synnestvedt in 2002.
Senior attacker Megan Pinkerton returned to the lineup after missing the game against Villanova with an ankle injury, scoring a goal and getting two shots on goal.
The senior group has been an important part of the team’s success, accounting for more than 70 percent of the team’s goals. The team’s entire starting defensive unit including goalie Jaqi Kakalecik are seniors. Every senior gets significant playing time, with the exception of Kathryn Skahan, who is out for the season with a knee injury she suffered in the preseason.
“There are so many of them, but they’re all so different,” Demato said. “They all bring something different to the field. They’re just a really good group of people … They’re so incredible and they’re the best teammates ever.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.