Roughly two minutes after Temple took an early one-goal lead in a 3-2 overtime loss to Lehigh University Sunday afternoon, an unexpected visitor approached the Owls’ bench.
Senior goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff, who is out for the season with a broken tibia that she suffered Friday against Penn, crutched over towards the sideline behind Temple’s home net, where freshman goalkeeper Jordan Nash was doing her best to fill in for the American Athletic Conference’s Preseason Goalkeeper of The Year.
“She broke herself out of the hospital today,” coach Seamus O’Connor said, jokingly. “She told them they had to release her.”
Nash, who was making the first start of her career, was especially relieved to see Kerkhoff.
“When Shauni showed up, it really helped build my confidence because I knew she believed in me,” Nash said.
With the game tied 2-2 heading into overtime, Kerkhoff crutched over to Temple’s huddle so she could join in. “Win on three. One, two, three, win!” the team shouted in unison.
As the team dispersed from the huddle and back onto the field, Kerkhoff positioned herself next to Nash and told her freshman teammate to keep working hard, and that she believes in her.
Her words of encouragement could only do so much, though, as the Owls (4-2) were defeated in the 94th minute on a header from Lehigh’s Madi Morgan that was deflected off the hands of Nash.
The ball didn’t end up in the back of the net, but the referees ruled that it had crossed the goal line, handing Temple its second consecutive loss.
Nash wasn’t able to keep her scoreless streak alive against Lehigh after holding Penn off the scoreboard for 68 minutes in relief of an injured Kerkhoff on Friday. The freshman from Brick, N.J., also had not allowed a goal in 52 minutes of combined action in the team’s first three games.
“I would say I have to communicate more with the team and be more decisive because it’ll help everyone else,” Nash said. “They were all really supportive today with it being my first start.”
The injury bug continued to bite the Owls against Lehigh, as redshirt-junior midfielder Gina DiTaranto suffered a dislocated kneecap and sophomore forward Gabriella McKeown went down with an apparent shoulder injury. McKeown could be seen wearing a wrap that covered from her right shoulder down to her forearm after the game.
“So many other teams would have quit and said, “Oh my god, we lost another starter, and another starter,” O’Connor said. “But they took an opportunity to quit and feel sorry for themselves and they didn’t.”
Temple had multiple opportunities to score, especially in the final minutes, as the Owls outshot Lehigh, 17-7. Sophomore defender Elana Falcone scored her third goal of the season in the fourth minute and senior Kelly Farrell notched her team-high fifth goal in the 56th minute for the team’s final output.
“They wanted to win today so badly after that high of yesterday with the football game,” O’Connor said. “They’re so gutted that they feel like they let Temple down, but I just tried to explain to them afterwards that they didn’t let anybody down.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Reifsnyder