Optimistic women’s soccer team ready to go

Despite beginning the season with three losses and a tie, the women’s soccer team continues to have high hopes for its young and improving squad.

Temple women’s soccer coach David Jones has to feel optimistic about the 2008 season.

With a bevy of returning talent packing the lineup and the progressive tutelage that Jones and his staff offer the girls each year, the Owls feel it is only a matter of time before the tough losses suffered in the past transfer over into the win column.

Jones, who enters his sixth season as coach with a career record of 21-61-8, heads an Owls team that went 5-10-4 overall (1-8-2 in the Atlantic Ten Conference) last season and finished one spot above the basement in the conference.

However, 10 starters return from that team, and the added experience and trust among the players can only make for improved chemistry.

“Our goal is to go to the A-10 Tournament,” Jones said. “We’re young, but we hope with our schedule we can get organized and win some games.”

Leading the Owls once again this season are midfielder Jenna Rankin, forward Wendy Halina and defenseman Cori Gallagher, all seniors. Rankin, a 5-foot-6-inch native of Fairless Hills, Pa., finished third on the Owls in scoring with nine points a year ago—three goals and three assists.

She started every game and became the dual offensive threat for a team that had its troubles finding the back of the net. But even more so, she has become somewhat of an unspoken leader for the team.
“I think the seniors are my first recruit class here at Temple,” Jones said. “They have developed and will compete this season. Jenna has worked real hard this offseason playing in the [Women’s Premier Soccer League].”

“[The seniors] will be hard workers and I think they’ll be ready to step up to the challenge,” he added.

In addition to the veterans, Jones welcomes back an abundance of starters who have contributed to this rebuilding process, including goalkeeper Kara Williams and defenseman Liz Roper, both sophomores.

As a wide-eyed freshman, Williams started every game between the pipes for the Owls, posting a 1.49 goals-against average, including three shutouts. She also received A-10 All-Rookie honors.

“Kara had a great freshman year. She stepped up to the challenge,” Jones said. “This year, we hope to have a stronger back line to take some of the pressure off her. Our assistant coach [Dave Dixon] was a world-class goalkeeper, so she has a great coach. We’re excited about her sophomore season.”

Joining Temple from overseas this season are forward/midfielder Jessica Stenberg and midfielder/defenseman Tiia Kuokka, both eager freshmen from Sweden and Finland, respectively.

Sara Scheid heads the ball in a game Friday against Maine. The Owls tied the contest, 2-2, behind two goals from freshman Niki Conn (John Mehler/TTN).

The Owls’ first A-10 contest is slated for Sept. 26 at Xavier. Along the way, conference rivals such as Charlotte and Fordham will also be tough tests. Jones, however, feels his squad is ready to take action in the league.

“It’ll be tough,” the Owls’ coach said of the conference schedule. “It seems like every team, every year is getting better. I think it will be a challenge to make the top six needed to get in the [A-10] Tournament.

“If we can get organized in the non-conference schedule, we’ll be fine.”

So now the question becomes, can the Owls revive a Temple program that has fallen victim to a few dismal seasons and earn back respect on campus, and more importantly, in the A-10?

“It’s going to come down to winning games,” Jones said. “We’ve got to step on the field and win games. If you don’t win games, at any level, you won’t get the respect.”

Bud Weaver can be reached at bud.weaver@temple.edu.

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