Position changes pay off for Temple field hockey

The Owls won their first two games of the season with contributions from a new midfield unit.

Temple field hockey coach Susan Ciufo watches from the sideline during the team’s home opener against Merrimack on Aug. 30. Ciufo and her team were not allowed to finish their game against University of Maine on Saturday at Kent State. | COLLEEN CLAGGETT / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Goalkeepers are the only players who can be fairly certain they won’t be asked to change position under a new coach.

For field players, their positions aren’t fixed, and Temple field hockey coach Susan Ciufo has taken advantage of this. 

In the Owls first two games of the season, Ciufo and her staff changed the positions of several midfield and back players to prepare for a “relentless” style of play focused on gaining and keeping the ball.

After playing three years as a back and recording one goal and one assist since 2016, senior midfielder Becky Gerhart has moved up the field. She will now be more involved in the team’s offense.

“It’s been exciting,” Gerhart said. “I played back my first two and a half, almost three years. So it’s something new, and it’s a fun spot to be in.”

Gerhart and junior Dani Batze both moved from back to midfield, while sophomore Nienke Oerlemans changed from both being forward and midfielder to back. Sophomore Annie Judge and redshirt-sophomore Grace Shanton are both backs after playing midfield in 2018.

Batze has recorded two goals during the Owls first two games. In her previous two years at Temple, she had contributed only one goal in 2018.

“I think [Ciufo] has been doing a really good job switching people around to the right spots,” Gerhart said. 

In the Owls’ opening game on Aug. 30, players debuted at their new positions, resulting in a 3-0 win at home over Merrimack College. 

Senior midfielder Kathryn Edgar played in the back for part of the second quarter, and scored the third goal of the game with a drag flick.

Edgar’s drag flick is an important part of the team’s corner options, Ciufo said.

Ciufo said that Edgar can play all over the field, so she moved Edgar to the back when senior forward Cristen Barnett was performing well in the midfield. 

“Personally, I’m happy to go anywhere,” Edgar said.

The Owls went on to beat LaSalle on Sunday 3-0. 

Players still have to build their stamina in their new positions, Ciufo said. 

“By going really hard, going 100 percent, you reach excellence,” Ciufo said after practice on Aug. 29. “So a big focus has been our energy, our intensity and our work rate. It’s been really important that those are the pieces that we’re bringing every day to practice.”

Gerhart said Ciufo emphasizes staying with the play, so players have to have a “hard work ethic” to keep up with her expectations.

Batze said the team’s conditioning was a factor in their performance against Merrimack.

“When you’re a fit team, you’re able to tackle back, get the rebounds,” Batze said. “So making sure that even when you are tired, you’re still making the leads for other people and cycling through.”

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