Owls find early winning identity

After an accomplished 2021 season, No. 18 Temple University women’s lacrosse has found early success, winning five of six games so far this season.

Belle Mastropietro, a freshman midfielder, runs on the field during the Owls' game against LaSalle at Howarth Field on Feb. 25. | NICHOLAS DAVIS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Six games into the season, No.18 Temple University women’s lacrosse (5-1, 0-0 The American Athletic Conference) has found an early winning identity.  

“When you get down to actually what’s allowing us to win it has been our preparation for each team,” said head coach Bonnie Rosen. “We’re preparing well game to game. We’re taking in the scout information. We’re staying disciplined to the game plan and they’re all in together.” 

Temple had only one loss against No. 11 Princeton University (3-0, 1-0 Ivy League) on Feb. 26, and they have scored at least 10 goals in every game so far this season. The team’s success comes from midfielder depth, prioritizing shot placement drills and scouting out their opponents prior to games.

The Owls had a successful 2021 season. They made it to The American Athletic Conference Championship and earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament, where they reached the second round. 

“That identity of being a winning program was the biggest thing we wanted to build on from last year,” said head coach Bonnie Rosen. “Things are possible if you just put your head down and get better every day.”

Despite losing nine seniors last season, the Owls had transfers, like graduate student midfielder Quinn Nicolai, who came from Penn State, fill vital roles in the starting lineup. She’s started each game and leads the team with 25 goals.

While filling the role of former midfielder Bridget Whitaker, Nicolai has found a quick connection with junior midfielder Belle Mastropietro, who is second in scoring. 

“Me and [Whitaker] had kind of differences in the way we play, [Nicolai] and I are more similar, so it was really easy for us to get along and figure stuff out,” Mastropietro said. 

In the Owls 16-5 victory against Army (4-2,0-0 The Patriot League) on Feb. 12, Mastropietro and Nicolai combined for seven goals. One of their best connections came with less than four minutes left in the second quarter, when Mastropietro found Nicolai for a wide open shot on goal, making the score 6-0. 

The two switch off the draw controls and take on the responsibility of leading the offense through running different plays. Whether it’s throwing feeds down low or taking it one on one, both have helped increase the Owls’ shooting, along with their focus on shooting placement drills. 

Last season, Temple had a 42.1 shot percentage compared to 48.9 percent this season. Rosen  changes shooting drills constantly, so each player gets a different reaction. 

“When it comes to shooting, one of the things we do very often is we send our shooters to what we call ‘goalie world’ with our associate head coach Jennifer Wong,” Rosen added. “It’s part of our prep for the goalies, but it’s where [Wong] really teaches our attackers from a goalies perspective, what scores are okay.”

The drill is a way for Rosen and Wong to catch if the attackers and midfielders need to change anything about their form, while also looking at their shot placement.

Temple scored its highest number of goals in a 19-11 victory against Kennesaw State (3-3,0-0 Atlantic Sun Conference) on March 2. The Owls had 10 different goal scorers, with Mastropietro and junior attacker Riley McGowan combining for eight. 

Rosen will ‌game plan for opposing teams two to three days before the match by looking at the team’s players on draw controls, their top scorers and their top defenders. 

“When you get into a game, if you’re shutting down that one thing, other people might step up,” Nicolai said. “So that ability to adjust on the field, working together then also listening to the coaches from the sideline, is definitely a team effort.”

Of course, not all game plans go the way Rosen would hope, so she’s become accustomed to making in-game adjustments, she said.

In Temple’s 12-7 win against Villanova (1-5, 0-0 The Big East) on Feb.16, the Owls were struggling on the draw controls. Rosen inserted six defenders instead of three on the line to help position the defense ahead of time, Rosen added.

“It’s part of one thing I’ve definitely learned over the years is you might have a great game plan, but being stubborn about it is not a great way to win,” Rosen said.

Besides their high percentage of shots on goal, Rosen is trying to get more players involved on the scoring end besides relying on Mastropietro and Nicolai. 

Junior midfielder Mackenzie Roth, who is third in scoring and senior attacker Abaigeal Ryan, who is fourth in scoring, have combined for 16 goals scored this season. 

Temple will take on No. 14 Rutgers University (6-0, 0-0 Big Ten Conference) on March 9 at 6 p.m. on Howarth Field. 

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