Owls hope improved recovery helps defense

Temple University field hockey is on a three-game losing streak, and interim head coach Michelle Vittese believes following through with offensive plays could spark a win.

Annie Judge, a junior midfielder back, passes the ball up the field as the Owls faced off against West Chester University on Aug. 20. | AMBER RITSON / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple University field hockey is looking for answers to break its three-game losing streak. 

The Owls haven’t found a spark in their offensive rhythm since the streak began, leading the team to work harder rather than smarter, said interim head coach Michelle Vittese.

“Our chances have fallen flat just because we didn’t really have a plan,” Vittese said after the team’s 6-1 loss against No. 10 Liberty University on Oct. 11. “We weren’t connected, so I think that just came from us not exactly knowing our exit.”

Vittese plans to prioritize recovery and follow-through in hopes Temple will improve its play with the ball when in the offensive circle, she said. 

In the last three games, Temple scored one goal against both Leigh University and Liberty University, each of which were from offensive corners. The Owls were then shutout by James Madison University on Oct. 17, despite having six corners.

“We need to prioritize sticking to our game plan and making sure the opportunities that we are given, we take,” Vittese said. “We have to value the ball and we have to defend as a unit.” 

The Owls have found the majority of their goals this season from corners, rather than breakaways and drives from the top of the circle. However, opponents like Liberty, who average just fewer than four goals per game, have capitalized on the Owls’ offensive shortcomings.

Vittese believes the team can combat those fast breaks if they are disciplined in their roles, she added.

In their last game against the Dukes, the Owls were overworked by the second half. If they were structurally and individually disciplined, it would lead to a smarter return on passes and less running, Vittese said. 

“Our team needs to focus more on our availability, helping our backfield,” said junior midfielder Claire Thomas. “They struggle, you know, at the back, because none of us were really available for them, so I think, just be more aware in that sense of like, what can we do and who’s going to take the initiative to get the ball.” 

When Temple turns the ball over in the middle, the team is forced to rely on the defense to make stops. However, Vittese wants the forwards and midfielders to get back to help the goalie as the defense moves up the field, she said.

The Owls are averaging just one goal and 10 shots per game. Temple has four games left for the season, two of which are conference games. 

Temple is currently No. 4 in the Big East standings, and could potentially make the playoffs since the top four teams in the conference make it, but recovery and follow-throughs could be a key part in beating those teams.

Temple will look for a win against Old Dominion University, the No. 2 team in the Big East standings (11-3,4-1 The Big East), on Oct. 22 in Norfolk, Virginia, at 1 p.m.

“We’re really hungry right now,” said freshman midfielder Julianne Kopec. “We haven’t had a win in a couple of games, so I’m definitely hungry for that.”

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