For returning members of the women’s lacrosse team, the memory of a late goal in their season’s closing moments still resonates in their minds.
The Owls came one win shy of reaching the Big East Conference tournament last season, when the 2014 campaign ended in an 11-10 loss to Rutgers on April 25, 2014. The team also lost its four graduated seniors, including attacker Jaymie Tabor, who led the team in scoring last year.
On Wednesday, the Owls will look to start their mission for redemption.
“We try not to spend a lot of time thinking about the past as we prepare for this year’s team,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “But we do return quite a bit of the same team, so there are things that we are focused on in our improvement. I think we have to score more goals. It’s really that simple.”
Last season, Temple was outscored, 175-149, by its opponents throughout the season, which led to a 6-10 record. The team lacked a balanced offensive attack, only having four players score more than 10 goals on the season and mostly relying on Tabor as the go-to attacker.
This year, Rosen said, could be a different story. She expects to lean on a few different scorers, including junior Nicole Tiernan, who was recently named to the All-Big East preseason team. Tiernan’s twin sister, Megan, along with junior Rachel Schwaab and freshman Nicole Barretta could also help bolster production.
“While anything can happen in terms of a person carrying the load, I think the key to our success this year is going to be a lot of scorers,” Rosen said. “We are looking to play a lot of attackers, not just a handful. Our midfielders all have the ability to score goals and so do our attackers.”
The team’s leadership will likely come on the defensive side of the ball, as three of Temple’s four captains – Maddie McTigue and Kara Stroup, both juniors, and senior Carli Fitzgerald – are defenders. These three, along with the rest of the defense, will attempt to improve on the Owls’ 119 caused turnovers from last season.
“We’re the foundation of the team,” Stroup said of the defense. “I think that we’re going to come out and set the tone, and spread our play throughout the midfield and attack. We have a lot of leadership on defense and it’s our job to set the tone and be consistent.”
The team lost its fourth captain, senior midfielder Molly Seefried, for the 2015 season after she took a hit to the head and suffered a resulting concussion in the team’s final game of the fall season. Seefried, who has a history of concussions, is only taking three courses this semester due to her injury. As she is not a full-time student, the senior is therefore barred from attending any team functions, per NCAA rules.
“Molly is one of my favorite people to play with,” Nicole Tiernan said. “She is one of the most selfless players in the world. She does everything for the benefit of you and the team.”
Seefried was a big part of the defense last year, causing 10 turnovers, which was tied for third-best on the team from the midfield position.
Two new schools were also added to a changing Big East conference for this year, as the University of Florida and Vanderbilt University joined this past offseason, coming over from the women-exclusive American Lacrosse Conference. Rutgers University and the University of Louisville, both members of the Big East in 2014, will be moving to the Big Ten Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference, respectively, for the 2015 season.
Both teams are expected to be tough this season. The Gators won the ALC last year, and were unanimously predicted to win the Big East this year in a conference preseason poll, while Vanderbilt was picked to finish fourth in the poll. The Owls were voted to finish fifth.
“I love our Big East,” Rosen said. “The addition of Florida and Vanderbilt is fantastic, both for notoriety in terms of the exposure – we get more nationally – and the competition level of being able to see Florida, in particular, on our schedule.”
“I think Florida is by far the leading candidate to win [the Big East], but I think there will be a bunch of teams battling it out to get into our four-team tournament,” Rosen added.
McTigue agreed that the incoming schools will increase the level of competition in the conference.
“I think that the conference is definitely better this year, but I think that we’re ready and will do well in our conference,” she said. “I think that everybody is really ready to start games and play.”
The Owls will play their first game on Feb. 11 against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County at Geasey Field in a 3 p.m. faceoff. The Retrievers, a member of the America East Conference, finished 7-9 last season.
Rosen, who is in her ninth year coaching the Owls, said she thinks the season-finale defeat to Rutgers last spring will continue to motivate her team toward cracking the conference tournament come late April.
“I think it’s on the mind of a lot of players as to what that game was and how close we were to achieving our goal of making the tournament last year,” Rosen said. “I think it did a lot to motivate people over the summer, but I think at this point we’re just very focused on being ready for game one against UMBC.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @mattcockayne55