Owls’ searching for consistent offensive production down the stretch

Temple University women’s soccer still can not find their offensive rhythm midway through the season.

Marissa DiGenova, graduate student defender, runs with the ball down the field during an Owls' game against the University of Tulsa at Temple Sports Complex on Sept. 30. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

The Owls looked like they were in a good position to claim a spot in The American Athletic Conference Tournament for the first time since the 2018-19 season when they defeated the University of Cincinnati — the 2020 conference tournament runner-up — on Sept. 23 after falling behind 2-0. 

Temple University women’s soccer went on to drop two crucial conference games to East Carolina University and the University of Tulsa, but rebounded with an upset win over the University of Houston. As they prepare to face their remaining conference opponents, the Owls plan to apply more consistent pressure on offense to achieve their season aspirations of making the AAC tournament, said head coach Nick Bochette.

During the 2020-21 season, Temple finished in the bottom half of the conference in goals per game, points, shots and assists. This season, the Owls are still at the bottom half of the conference in every major offensive statistic, despite a strong emphasis on offensive improvements.

“We know our strength is not down the middle,” said graduate student defender Marissa DiGenova. “We have been capitalizing on getting the ball wide and serving it in, so I think that is why we might not have as many shots as other teams because that is not how we are creating our attacks.”

The Owls have primarily run a formation of four defenders, three midfielders and three forwards, a system Bochette has relied on since arriving at Temple in January 2020. The formation has given the Owls defensive flexibility and is a big reason for their strong defensive line this season.

In the final four games of this season, Temple plans to mix up formations to jumpstart the team on the offensive side of the ball but will emphasize having three central midfielders to take away their opponent’s space through the midfield, Bochette said. 

“It has been a lot of the same system,” Bochette added. “I am not someone who believes it should always ever be one system, I think that versatility is important at this level but with the personnel that we have right now and the way that we create attacks, it has been a lot of 4-3-3.”

Temple has been outshot 214-139 this season in total. Going forward, the Owls will try to stay aggressive on their offensive attacks without leaving themselves vulnerable on the defensive side of the ball, Bochette said.

“Quality of chance matters,” Bochette added. “When we get outshot in a game it does not really mean a whole lot to me. It is about the quality of chances, and there have been games where we have been outshot, but we have had the more quality chances.”

Junior forward Emily Kavanaugh has been one of the Owls’ bright spots on offense. She has recorded seven goals and 15 points through 13 games, leading the team in both categories. 

Kavanaugh is often paired with fellow junior forward Haley Gutowski on offense. Gutowski has scored five goals, the second highest number of goals on the team, and assisted on just less than half of Kavanaugh’s goals this season. 

“[Gutowski] provides a great service,” Kavanaugh said. “She can hit a very nice driven ball on the ground and it makes it really easy for someone to put it in the net and we have a really great chemistry.”

Temple will need to earn at least three conference points in their upcoming games against  Southern Methodist University, the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida to have a chance at qualifying for the conference playoffs. The Owls are currently one point ahead of the University of Cincinnati for the final tournament spot.

The Owls will begin their pursuit of the playoffs by traveling to take on the Mustangs on Oct. 20. The Mustangs are one of the best defensive teams in the conference, only allowing nine total goals this season. The Owls will need to find a formation they can use to consistently apply pressure to keep up with the Mustangs.

“We have seen this year in our conference that anyone can beat anyone on any given day,” Kavanaugh said. “If we just take care of our own game and continue to have belief in ourselves then we can make a strong push for the playoffs.”

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