Influenced by the Philadelphia Flyers, the Owls have decided to adopt the local team’s nickname, “Broad Street Bullies,” with one alteration.
“Apparently, the scouting report on us is that we’re borderline dirty,” senior defender Karly O’Toole said after a Sept. 26 victory against Houston.
So the team decided to swap “bullies” for another B-word.
“I don’t know what they’re talking about,” coach Seamus O’Connor said with a laugh.
The Owls have gained a reputation among their opponents as a physical and chippy group of players.
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” O’Connor said. “I put it more down on competitiveness. At this level, these girls are so competitive. I know for a fact my girls aren’t going to stand down. They’re not going to take a step back and they’re not going to be intimidated by anybody.”
As a Philadelphia-based program, the Owls feel an obligation to have a physically intimidating and scrappy playing style. Since the 2013 spring season, O’Connor’s first time at the helm of the program, that mindset has brought success.
“We’re not all from Philly [but] the predisposition is that we’re going to be physical,” sophomore defender Kaylee Harner said. “It’s a good intimidation factor.”
In 2013, Temple has recorded its best record through 13 games, at 6-5-1, in 11 years. The Owls began 7-6 in 2002. This season, the Owls have also boasted one of the best defensive units in the nation.
“We work our butts off and we’re always going in for the tackles, trying to win it,” sophomore defender Erin Lafferty said.
The Owls’ defense is predicated on denial of shots and their most effective method of defense is physical contact with opposing scorers. The Owls physicality has led some opponents to deem the squad as dirty. Temple revels in its physical reputation, but the Owls said they don’t believe they are a dirty team that purposely injures opponents.
“I don’t think it’s dirty, because no one goes in with the intention to hurt someone,” Harner said. “It’s more that you want to give 100 percent and that comes with being physical and going hard into tackles.”
This season, the Owls’ 13 opponents have earned one yellow card and 104 total fouls. In the same span, Temple has recorded five yellow cards and 118 fouls. The team attributes fouls and hard tackles to their aggressiveness, not foul play.
“I think there are teams that are just plain dirty, but I don’t think our team is playing dirty,” sophomore defender Taylor Trusky said. “We are perceived as dirty because of how hard we do work and our effort. We may not have the most skilled soccer players, like some of the teams we play, but we deal with them and we’re definitely not going to let them walk all over us.”
Due to their physicality, the Owls have become victims of verbal backlash from players and opposing home crowds.
“We were called thugs at our one game,” Trusky said. “That came out of some parents’ mouths.”
“I think people would be shocked if they heard what was going on out there,” O’Connor said. “I think sometimes when teams play against us, the only way they can come back at us is with their mouth. Our girls are well-drilled in the fact that we don’t retaliate.”
Negative reaction to its playing style has not discouraged Temple from continuing to play aggressively. When asked if they would consider easing up because of the “dirty” label, they answered “no” almost immediately.
“There’s definitely angry parents, [but] when they react, it doesn’t make you want to stop,” Harner said.
Entering the American Athletic Conference schedule, O’Connor said Temple’s physical playing style will be necessary to compete with its conference foes.
“At the highest level in this conference, we’re perceived as being a very physical team because all the teams are this physical,” O’Connor said. “Out of conference, teams will perceive you as [dirty] just because you’re competitive.”
For the players, they want to continue playing physically, sending a message to their conference opponents who may underestimate Temple. Trusky recalled the conference matchup against Houston that began with an early Temple foul, setting the tone for the Owls.
“We fouled in the first five seconds of the game,” Trusky said. “We’re not an intentionally dirty team at all. We go all out. I think that’s with teams underestimating us and take us too delicately.”
In a conference where Temple is not the most athletically talented team, physicality will have to act as the equalizer if the Owls are to earn victories.
“It’s hard because in this conference, there’s a lot of athleticism, a lot of physicality and it’s a huge part of the game,” O’Toole said. “If we can dominate them physically, we can use it to our advantage.”
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BErick1123.