Pulling off nine road trips along the East Coast before the end of the fall was thrilling for the women’s soccer team.
Those were some of the best times Johanna Yemm and Sara Meehan enjoyed throughout their senior season on the women’s soccer team.
Fitness runs through college campuses in the Ohio Valley, having an informal practice on the lawn next to the Washington Monument and the long bus rides with 19 other teammates are the memories Yemm and Meehan will tuck away from this past season, not the struggles or losing record.
“Even if it’s not the game, we’ll remember something special,” Yemm said. “You can only go out and play soccer. There’s nothing like being on a team together, the togetherness. And we all love each other.”
Sure, a 4-14-1 overall and 2-9 Atlantic Ten record isn’t much to brag about. If Yemm had it her way, Temple would start the season over and finish with a far better record. If Meehan could start from scratch, she would have never enrolled at West Chester University as a freshman. She felt part of a team and comfortable with teammates from day one as an Owl.
After the Owls 3-1 loss to Rhode Island last Sunday in their final regular season game and the last event to be played at Temple Stadium, the team met near midfield for a talk. Interim head coach David Jones thanked them for gutting it out, for keeping a positive attitude and helping ease his transition to head coach. Yemm and Meehan walked off the field one last time with cleats, flowers and candy tucked under their arms.
There was no dwelling, only reminiscing.
The trip to Washington D.C. was one for the scrapbooks. Before the Owls played George Washington Oct. 26, the team took a tour around the Capitol, where they saw an anti-war rally with hundreds of supporters. Soon after, the team was putting on a mini-practice for the public on the lawn in front of the Washington Monument.
“I’ve never been to anything like that before,” Jones said. “For some of them, that might be the biggest thing they’ll remember. They’re not going to remember that Rhode Island beat us in the last game. They’re going to remember the little things you did in between. It’s the little stuff that you do off the field that helps you come together on the field.”
The team struggled on the field all season long, with several losing streaks. But the Owls are young, and with the departure of Yemm, will be returning 10 starters. Youth is on their side and should give an advantage next season when the seven freshman, seven sophomores and four juniors have another season under them.
Temple was last in the A-10 in points, goals per game, assists, goals allowed and offside penalties. The Owls also were outscored 36-5 in the second half of games.
“It just seems that we always slope off in the second half,” midfielder Samantha Vietry said. “If we could just pick up our second half game, we could be a good team.”
Much of their demise might have come from the coaching change at the beginning of the season, when long-time coach Seamus McWilliams resigned for personal reasons and was replaced by Jones.
Coming from the men’s team as an assistant, Jones had a slightly different game plan. He wanted the team to be more defensive and behind the ball. The team played more man defense and pushed up on the field. There was also some position changes that came at a difficult time for both the players and the new coach.
“If we played Jones’ style the whole season we would have been successful,” Vietry said. “With the coach switch, it was really hard on us, and I think Johanna did well in leading us. She was the only stable force we had all year.”
Now Jones wants to plug some holes on the roster so there will be more of a competitive edge for winning playing time. And he wants to return to the team as the head coach even though the Athletics department must make the position nationally available.
That doesn’t seem to bother Jones too much. Nor do the ups and downs Temple endured through the season. With such a young team, he will evaluate them on desire, not the number of goals scored.
“I thought the girls responded phenomenally, they came with a great attitude and that’s all you can ask for,” Jones said. “The attitude and what they bought to the table everyday is what I’m going to remember. You ask for it, and you want it from your players, but you don’t always get it. And I thought they did it when we were struggling and I appreciate that.”
Chris Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.