Coach Seamus O’Connor wanted nothing more than to see his senior goalkeeper take the field one last time.
Shauni Kerkhoff, who was ruled out for the season after breaking her tibia in a loss to Penn Sept. 4, recently decided she would not apply for a medical redshirt that would allow her to return to the field next season.
Once Kerkhoff made her decision, O’Connor said he wanted to put her on the field for Temple’s senior day, an American Athletic Conference match with last-place Houston Sunday, which the Owls (12-6-1, 4-4-1 American Athletic Conferenec) won 2-1, setting a new program record for single-season wins.
“I talked to her about it and I told her, ‘You have done too much for this program to have your last event as an injured player,’” O’Connor said. “Then I said, ‘I don’t want your last event to be an injury, so your last event is going to be as a player, not as an injured player.’”
O’Connor hoped that Kerkhoff would be able to not only take the field, but play for a few minutes. However, she was not cleared for full activity by the training staff.
As the Owls took the field following halftime Sunday, Kerkhoff emerged from the huddle wearing a white No. 26 jersey – instead of her usual light blue goalie uniform featuring No. 0 – and walked alongside fellow senior Paula Jurewicz to the center of the field for the opening kickoff.
Kerkhoff made the opening kick, lightly tapping the ball to Jurewicz, who booted the ball out of bounds to complete her teammate’s sendoff.
Fans, coaches and players from both sides applauded respectfully as Kerkhoff made her way back to the home bench to hug her mother, O’Connor and the rest of her teammates.
“He’s just been so great through this whole process and whole journey,” Kerkhoff said of O’Connor. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to leave and he gave that to me, so it was so great and with all the support from the fans and my teammates it was a great way to go out.”
Roughly 18 minutes after Kerkhoff’s departure, Houston negated Temple’s 1-0 advantage – a 30th-minute goal from junior Elaine Byerly – with a goal by sophomore Georgi Dolence in the 63rd minute to tie the game.
Temple struggled to keep possession on offense until the 86th minute, when senior striker Kelly Farrell scored her team-leading 12th goal of the season off an assist from sophomore Gabriella McKeown to give the Owls the lead.
Farrell had not scored since Sept. 20, when she netted a career-high three goals in a 3-1 non-conference win over city-rival Saint Joseph’s.
“I thought I’d just like save it until the last game, last three minutes, make it suspenseful, give me something to look forward to,” Farrell said.
In addition to breaking the program record for single-season wins, the Owls’ final regular-season game yielded two other record-setting performances as senior defender Erin Lafferty broke a program record for games played at 78 and the team broke a program record for single-season home wins with 10.
“There were definitely a lot of emotions going on and we all wanted to stay focused and remember that we were still playing and we want to get ready for conference playoffs, but it’s nice that our team became a family,” Farrell said. “It was just nice to be able to celebrate it with girls that are like my sisters now, and everyone was on the field and Shauni got to play her last game at Ambler for the last time, it was exciting.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at tom.reifsnyder or on Twitter @Tom_Reifsnyder