Owls looking for offensive consistency this spring

After narrowly missing the American Athletic Conference tournament last season, Temple University women’s soccer will look for new ways to apply pressure on offense this spring.

Emily Kavanaugh, a senior forward, dribbles the ball during an Owls’ game against Drexel University on Sept. 19, 2021. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When Temple University women’s soccer traveled to Orlando, Florida, to take on the University of Central Florida on Oct. 24, 2021, they had a chance to get back to the American Athletic Conference tournament for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

Instead, the Owls were pummeled in a 5-0 defeat and did not display a genuine reflection of the type of team they were, said head coach Nick Bochette.

“The difference between that game and games that we were able to win was the execution of details,” Bochette added. “Heading into this season and during this spring season, we will be trying to take the things we learn and apply it on a more consistent basis.”

The Owls look to build off what they learned from the 2021 season by trying out new creative strategies and formations this spring in order to find offensive consistency.

Last season, Temple was outshot 287-146 by opponents and struggled to score consistently. However, they still had a higher shot percentage than opponents, proving that when they had opportunities they were converting, but those moments were scarce.

Temple played in a three forward system with junior forwards Emily Kavanaugh and Hailey Gutowski getting most of the time at the wing positions. Gutowski announced ‌on March 25 she would transfer to Rutgers University for her final year of eligibility, leaving a hole in the offensive unit. 

Gutowksi started in 15 of the Owls 16 games last season and scored five goals, which was the second most on the team, behind Kavanaugh.

The Owls are experimenting with a two-forward formation this spring to jumpstart the offense without Gutowski’s presence in the final third. A two-forward formation aims to control the pace of play through more attacking options and ball control with an extra midfielder on the attack.

“We have had a lot of girls that have stepped up this spring,” Kavanaugh said. “There have been a lot of younger players that I have seen great things from and they will have to step up and take on bigger roles on the team.”

Bochette believes junior forward Gabriela Johnson will help minimize the loss of Gutowski, now that she is fully healthy for the first time since the 2020-21 season after suffering a lower body injury. 

In her freshman season, Johnson tallied five goals and was named to the AAC All-Rookie team. During the 2020-21 season, she was tied for the team lead in goals and points through the first six games of the season before her injury on March 7.

Johnson missed the first eight games of the 2021 season, and returned for limited minutes while starting in just two games as she worked her way back to being healthy.

“[Johnson] has been really ready to go this spring,” Bochette said. “She is a player that brings a different aspect that we can’t wait to get back on the field but when you lose a player like [Gutowski], you don’t necessarily try to find a carbon copy of her because every player is unique.”

The Owls could pair Johnson and Kavanaugh together on the front line in a potential two forward formation, giving the team the ability to play with five midfielders rather than four, which would lead to more control of the middle of the field and allows for more creativity for openings on the attack.

“As a team we kind of struggled in some high pressure games last season,” said junior goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein. “It seemed like we performed a lot better when the high pressure came off, but getting to experience that and what it is like to be in big situations will only make everyone become more comfortable playing in those games.”

The Owls emphasize ensuring each player is improving, by focusing on an explosive transition offense and making sure they are less susceptible to counterattacks. The team believes they have the right personnel to have a successful season and get back to the conference tournament.

“We have been saying this spring to make sure each person gets five percent better every day,” Kavanaugh said. “If every single person on the team improves five percent, then collectively the team is going to improve a lot.

The Owls will conclude their spring season when they host Lehigh University on April 16 at 1 p.m. at the Temple Sports Complex.

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