Temple University lacrosse (11-4, 7-3 The American Athletic Conference) split its final weekend series of the season against Vanderbilt University (12-5, 7-3 The American) on Friday and Sunday. Temple won 13-12 on Friday and was defeated 10-6 on Sunday.
The two sides will play for a third straight time on May 6 in the semifinals of The American Athletic ConferenceTournament. The top four teams in the conference made the tournament, and Vanderbilt finished in second place in the conference while Temple finished in third.
“The expectations are rising in every player,” said head coach Bonnie Rosen. “Unless you’ve been through this a lot then you haven’t felt this pressure before. The next game is the one that really matters the most.”
On Friday, Vanderbilt jumped out to an early 6-1 lead at the 13:21 mark and held all the momentum in the first half.
Temple sophomore attacker Julie Schickling scored at the 12:34 mark, and senior midfielder Bridget Whitaker added another goal at 11:17 to cut the deficit to 6-3, but Vanderbilt would score two more and held Temple off the scoreboard for more than six minutes.
Temple closed the half on a 3-1 run, with goals from sophomore midfielders Mackenzie Roth and Belle Mastropietro at 4:56 and 4:15 and Schickling’s second goal of the game at 2:14, cutting the deficit to 9-6.
Temple’s momentum carried into the second half as the Owls scored four straight goals to go up 10-6.
In the second half, Temple adjusted to Vanderbilt’s constant switching between man and zone defenses, which had confused the Owls in the first half.
“We got smarter as the game went along,” Rosen said. “Defensively we learned how Vanderbilt liked to come around the crease and our defenders recognized that and changed how quickly they slid for the driver. Offensively we just adjusted a little bit so that it changed up their timing on what they wanted to do.”
Vanderbilt scored two straight goals to retake the lead at 11-10, but Temple countered with two goals of its own from Mastropietro and senior midfielder Jen Rodzewich to take a 12-11 lead with 9:45 left in the game.
Both defenses cracked down and neither team scored during the next eight minutes.
With just over a minute to go, Whitaker had the ball checked away from her, but Schickling picked up the ground ball and shot the ball over the head of Commodores sophomore goalkeeper Paige Gunning, giving Temple its largest lead of the game at 13-11 with 1:15 remaining.
“[Schickling’s] really been playing well in practice,” Rosen said. ‘We’ve been trying to find ways to use her more in games and in ways that’ll show her talent more and more. She’s confident and brings her A game everyday. She was ready for the moment today.”
Vanderbilt managed to score with five seconds left, but it was too late as the clock ran out and Temple closed out a comeback 13-12 win.
“It was such a good showing from us,” Rosen said. “I’m really excited about our ability to adjust and adapt on the fly. That’s been a key all year. The fact that we can handle going down early but stay calm and find a way is something that I think is at the heart of, and a strength of our team.”
Neither team jumped out to an early lead in Sunday’s contest. The score was 1-1 halfway through the first half with Vanderbilt scoring at 24:45 and Temple countering at 22:03. Schickling scored her first goal of the game and fourth of the weekend at 14:26, giving Temple a 2-1 lead.
Temple’s defense, particularly junior goalkeeper Shana Hecht, played well for most of the first half. Before giving up Vanderbilt’s second goal of the game at 8:08, Hecht racked up six saves and kept Temple from going down early.
But on the offensive end, Temple struggled mightily. The Owls managed to score just two goals in the entire first half, and went down 5-2 at halftime.
Vanderbilt’s high pressure defense caused turnovers but Temple created plenty of unforced turnovers of their own allowing Vanderbilt more time in Temple’s defensive end.
“Unforced turnovers and the inability to get shots off in the process of turning the ball over was without a doubt the biggest difference today,” Rosen said.
After trading goals to start the second half, Vanderbilt went on a 3-1 run, expanding their lead to 9-4.
Mastropietro scored with 17:23 left to cut the deficit to four, but Vanderbilt extended it back to a 10-5 lead at 15:09. The final goal of the game would be scored by Mastropietro at the 11:12 mark, leading to the final score of 10-6.
Temple had several chances to cut into the lead late, but couldn’t get a shot off or were stopped by Gunning. Gunning made 11 saves total and stopped Schickling on a breakaway while running back to goal with just less than six minutes remaining.
“We rushed our opportunities,” Rosen said. “When you’re playing against a zone you have to be willing to work and break them down and then get good shots off. Sometimes when we’re rushed we just shoot low instead of shooting to actually score. We put ourselves into pressure too quickly and didn’t give ourselves a chance to work them.”
A potential at-large NCAA Tournament appearance is on the line now in the conference tournament, and Rosen knows that her team can be better and do more to get there.
“We’ve seen the range of what Vanderbilt can bring to a game,” Rosen said. “They haven’t seen our range yet. We have the ability to be more flexible and show them something different and more effective down the stretch.”