After its first three games of the season, one thing is clear about Temple University women’s soccer (1-2, 0-2 The American Athletic Conference): they’re learning on the job.
With 12 newcomers, a completely new coaching staff and at least three freshmen starting in each game, the team is still trying to implement an improved offensive system that is more aggressive and focused on speed.
“Chance creation and how much time we spend in the attacking area is a good indicator of how potent our attack will be,” said head coach Nick Bochette. “That’s really it. We need our team to successfully penetrate into the attacking third and into the penalty area. It has very little to do with the personnel, it’s just us as a team and organization-wise, and we need to do a better job of that.”
The team has struggled mightily in spurts on offense, as the Owls had zero shots on goal in their loss to South Florida (2-0, 1-0 The American) on Feb. 21, but Bochette’s vision for the offense is clear and beginning to take shape.
Under Bochette, there’s newfound confidence the team can actually score and win games, a welcome change from last year when the team scored at least three goals in only two of 19 games.
This season, the Owls notched an impressive 3-0 win against Villanova (0-3, 0-0 The Big East Conference) in their second game. Temple forced the Wildcats’ defense onto their heels for the entire game, speaking to the improvements they’ve made in keeping possession of the ball.
Against Villanova, the Owls recorded nine shots on goal and 14 total shots, including four shots on goal coming from junior midfielder Hailey Gutowski. Temple could’ve had more goals, as junior forward Emily Kavanaugh and Gutowski ran circles around Villanova’s defense the entire game.
Temple has a lot of speed, and they’re learning how to use it. Seniors Emma Wilkins, Marissa DiGenova and Djavon Dupree, Kavanaugh and Gutowski, sophomore Teri Jackson and freshman Lexy Endres have all shown they can keep possession of the ball, provide runs off long balls and outlet passes and create scoring opportunities.
“We’ve gotten a lot better at making runs off of each other,” Kavanaugh said. “We have more room to make runs up top when it’s not so crowded up there, and we have really good players on the width that can serve balls in really well, and our forwards can finish in the box. Overall, this system of play really works to our advantage.”
If the Owls continue to play with the speed and aggressiveness they displayed against the Wildcats, then Temple can start to rely on its offense to pull out wins.
Under former coach Seamus O’Connor, Temple would focus more on defense to try and win games. Former goalkeeper Morgan Basileo, who averaged 6.5 saves per game last season, frequently kept Temple’s hopes alive because they couldn’t generate a consistent offensive attack.
Despite averaging one goal per game this season, Temple’s offense has produced 20 shots, including 12 shots on goal so far. Though it is still early in the season, there is clearly a focus on creating more scoring opportunities.
Temple’s offense has looked ugly, especially early in the Owls’ loss to Central Florida (2-0, 2-0 the American) on Feb. 14 and their loss to USF.
There’s a reason Bochette called the USF game “a 90-minute suffer-fest.” Temple didn’t have a shot on goal against the Bulls, and junior goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein made 10 saves.
But even in their loss to USF, the Owls’ offense looked faster. They were just outmatched by a better team.
For Temple, the structure of a good offense is there. The Owls just need to execute a little more consistently.
Temple’s upcoming game against East Carolina (1-2, 1-0 The American) on Feb. 28 is an important inflection point in the Owls’ season.
ECU was picked to finish in seventh place in The American preseason coaches poll, one spot ahead of Temple at eighth. The Pirates rely on their defense, including senior Kim Sanford and junior Maycie McDougal, to shut down their opponents.
Temple can have success against ECU’s defense if they’re able to sustain enough pressure throughout the game. Sanford and McDougal won’t allow Temple’s attack to get a shot on goal on every offensive possession, but if Temple keeps the pressure on, the cracks will show in ECU’s defense.
Temple will need to control the middle of the field to generate passing lanes for forwards coming into the play.
This will all take time, and they’ll need to be patient, but there’s a foundation for success for Temple women’s soccer, and that’s something that we haven’t seen in a long time.