After her team’s 3-2 overtime win against Temple Oct. 4, Liberty coach Jodi Murphy had something to say to the struggling Owls.
Murphy told the Owls—following their fourth straight loss—that she was expecting some upsets from them in the future.
More than two weeks later, the team started a five-game winning streak with a 1-0 victory against Old Dominion University—the then-No. 12 team in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll.
The streak culminated Sunday with a 7-3 loss to No. 2 Connecticut in the Big East Conference Tournament, which ended the team’s season with a 8-13 record.
“We’ve been saying, ‘It’s not where you start, but where you finish,’” coach Marybeth Freeman said. “Last time we played Connecticut, we were 3-8. [Sunday], we had a really good team push on both the attack and the defense. We really kind of honed in and made things more detail-oriented for us, and that was able to put us in position to win the game.”
Senior midfielder and tri-captain Sarah Deck, who finished the season second on the team with eight goals, said the team’s win against Old Dominion, the squad’s lone win against a ranked opponent, was the turning point in its season.
“I think we kind of came together as a team,” Deck said. “We had phenomenal team defense, and just the confidence of knowing that your teammates have your back, during every single play and spread out in the games, is great. We really just connected.”
During the team’s five-game win streak, the Owls outscored opponents 13-5. The team earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament after defeating Villanova 3-2 in overtime Oct. 31 on a goal from sophomore midfielder/forward Maiyah Brown.
In Temple’s semifinal match against Villanova last Friday in the opening round of the conference tournament, senior midfielder Alyssa Delp’s goal with 1:29 left in regulation tied the game at one, sending the game into overtime.
With 1:38 left in the first overtime period, senior forward Tricia Light made a diving shot to end the game and help her team advance to the tournament’s championship game.
“I think it was just a lot of persistence,” Light said Oct. 31. “We needed to win, and we knew how to win. I don’t think we were too anxious about it, and we knew what we needed to do. We were just going to execute, and we did that.”
Sunday, Temple surrendered five goals to UConn in the first 15 minutes of the championship match. The Owls scored two goals before the end of the first half, one from Deck and another from Delp, and added another in the second half but fell 7-3 to the reigning national champions.
Light, Deck and Delp, three members of the 10-member senior class that is on track to graduate in the spring, were named to the All-Big East Tournament team after the loss.
“Obviously, you never like to lose a game like this,” Freeman said. “But you can’t have this loss overlook everything that we’ve been able to accomplish this season. … Our composure has developed so much that it put us in a position to win.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Matt Cockayne55.