Hours after Temple, the No. 6 seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament, lost to No. 3 Central Florida, 2-1 last Tuesday in Dallas, Texas, Seamus O’Connor woke up with a smile on his face.
By the time the Owls (12-7-1, 4-4-1 American Athletic Conference) headed downstairs from their hotel rooms for breakfast Wednesday morning, O’Connor was already fiddling with the depth charts for next season.
“The girls were laughing at me and saying, ‘You’re already working on next year?’ and I’m like, ‘Yep, it started last night,’” O’Connor said. “They’re like, ‘You’re not even sad this morning?’ and I’m like, ‘Nope, I’m on to the next season.’”
While O’Connor has found solace in looking forward to next year, a third of Temple’s roster has played its final game in cherry and white.
The Owls lose nine seniors—Shauni Kerkhoff, Brendi Ernst, Shannon Senour, Kaylee Harner, Paige Rachel, Kelly Farrell, Paula Jurewicz, Erin Lafferty and Taylor Trusky—from their 12-win team, which set a program record for single-season wins.
“As much as we love sports, and as much as we want to win, it’s about what these ladies are going to become when they leave Temple, and this senior group is just going to be some amazingly successful people,” O’Connor said. “I firmly believe that sports don’t teach you character, it reveals your character … and the character of these seniors is unbelievable.”
Farrell, a striker, and Lafferty, a defender, were No. 1 and No. 2 in goals scored for the Owls this season as both earned all-conference second team honors. Farrell tied for first in the conference with 13 goals while Lafferty scored seven goals and set a program record for games played at 79.
“It’s such an amazing feeling and I am the luckiest girl to be able to say that I was a part of this legacy,” Farrell said. “I am happy I was able to play against some of the best girls in the country with such a hardworking and dedicated group of girls.”
Temple will need to replace its entire back line as Senour, Harner, Jurewicz, Lafferty and Trusky each started at least 18 games on defense this season.
O’Connor said sophomore Delia Trimble, who saw action in 12 games this season, will step into a major role for the Owls’ defense in 2016.
“She was stuck behind Erin and [junior defender] Taylor [Matsinger] this year,” O’Connor said. “Unfortunately for her, Erin and Taylor never got hurt and played really well all year.”
Offensively, the Owls return six of the team’s Top 10 goal scorers from this season, including redshirt junior Gina DiTaranto, junior Elaine Byerly, sophomores Elana Falcone, Gabriella McKeown and Kayla Cunningham and freshman Sarah McGlinn.
Temple also returns freshman goalkeeper Jordan Nash, who stepped in when Kerkhoff broke her leg in a loss to Penn Sept. 4. Nash earned all-rookie team honors from The American and posted a 1.02 goals against average with 70 saves in 19 games.
“We’ve got a bright future ahead of us,” O’Connor said.
Byerly, the Owls’ only non-senior captain this season, said she is grateful to Temple’s nine seniors for teaching her how to become a better leader.
“It was great just watching them and learning how they act in situations, and I can learn from them and see how I’m going to step up again next year and kind of lead the team,” Byerly said. “It’s tough to see them go, but when one door closes, another one opens, and we’re all getting ready for our futures.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at email@example.com.