As coach Seamus O’Connor watched Temple shut out La Salle 3-0 Friday, the difference between his current group and last season’s team became clearer than ever.
The coach scanned the field, looking from player to player, and then turned to the Owls’ bench for a final introspective glance at his team.
“We have more goal scorers than we’ve ever had in the history of this program,” O’Connor said. “The team we were last year, one goal was like, ‘Oh my god, this is a miracle,’ and this year it’s like, ‘No, we have to go score.’”
In 10 games of non-conference play, Temple (8-2) outscored its opponents 31-8. Last year, the Owls entered their first American Athletic Conference match with a 7-2 record and a 17-8 scoring advantage against their non-conference opponents.
“We want to win the conference and we want to be in control of it,” O’Connor said. “So we have to go and score more.”
Ten of Temple’s 24 players who have taken the field in 2015 have scored at least one goal.
Seven of those 10 players have already set or matched career-highs in goals for a single season, including senior midfielder Kelly Farrell (11), senior defender Erin Lafferty (5) and sophomore defender Elana Falcone (4).
Farrell, who transferred from Old Dominion University before the 2013 season, leads The American in goals scored.
The Sicklerville, New Jersey native scored in a career-high, seven straight games to start the season and currently has two more goals than she did in 2014. Farrell has found the back of the net in all but one of the games she played this season.
“I feel like we’re just way more focused this year,” Farrell said. “We know what we have to do, and it’s a lot of the girls last year and we want to leave a memory. A lot of people are gunning for us and we have a target on our backs, so we just have to keep rising.”
Temple’s nine-member senior class has given the team a veteran leadership presence this season, but O’Connor said the play of the underclassmen has given him hope for the future.
Falcone and fellow sophomores Gabriella McKeown and Kayla Cunningham have all made impacts, combining for seven goals and 20 points.
Freshmen midfielder Sarah McGlinn has three goals and freshman goalkeeper Jordan Nash has 23 saves since replacing injured senior Shauni Kerkhoff, The American’s Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year.
Nash is 4-1 with two shutouts in five starts since relieving Kerkhoff, who was ruled out for the season after breaking her right tibia against the University of Pennsylvania Sept. 4.
“It’s going to be terrible losing the seniors, but the sophomore class is just phenomenal,” O’Connor said. “Sarah, Jordan and the freshmen are starting to contribute too, but I feel really good about the future now because those sophomores have really stepped up.”
Last year, the Owls lost their final two games before conference play after a program-record seven consecutive wins to start the season.
Temple enters its conference opener on the road against Central Florida Thursday with momentum after defeating La Salle for the first time since 2002 and taking down Saint Joseph’s Sunday to cap a four-game winning streak.
“The biggest difference from this year to last year is I feel like we’re going to score every game,” O’Connor said. “I feel like we’re in a better position now going into conference than we were last year.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Reifsnyder.