Before games, the lacrosse team’s 13 seniors often come into the locker room and say, “This is the last time we’re going to play this team.”
In four days, the seniors will start their last stretch of conference play.
The Owls open up Big East play Saturday against the University of Florida, the No. 2 team in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll.
Players watched video from Florida’s March 19 matchup with No. 1 University of Maryland in preparation for their trip to Gainesville, Florida. The Terrapins outscored the Gators 10-2 in the second half to earn a 14-4 victory against a Gators squad that was 6-0 against ranked teams and undefeated overall.
“We kind of picked up on some things that Maryland did to break down Florida,” senior defender Summer Jaros said. “We can always learn from the top team, obviously. Just pushing our offense a little faster, moving the ball a little quicker to get their defense to move and slide around, I think we’ll see shots from that.”
After Saturday’s 18-3 win against University of California, Berkeley, Temple has compiled a 8-2 record in nonconference play.
Before a March 16 loss against the University of Delaware, the Owls won seven consecutive games, outscoring opponents 110-41. The Owls had a season-low 12 shots in the defeat.
“Our nonconference schedule, I think, has done a good job of prepping us to this point,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “The loss against Delaware was a pretty good stumble for us, in terms of our psyche … I didn’t like the loss and I didn’t like how we played, but I’m hoping that down the stretch it’s going to be a game we look to and say, ‘That one made us ready for the game we end up winning.’”
The Owls were in a similar position last season, entering Big East play with an 8-1 nonconference record. The team started conference play with three consecutive losses to then-No. 8 Florida, Connecticut and Vanderbilt University.
A loss to Villanova on the Owls’ senior day eliminated the team from postseason play on the way to a 2-5 finish in Temple’s second year in the Big East.
Senior midfielder Megan Tiernan said movement on offense was a problem for the Owls last season, and the team has been focusing on improving the area this season.
“That was a goal that a couple of us have been enforcing kind of, is to try and keep the ball moving as fast as you can,” Tiernan said. “So if you drive and it’s not there, don’t hold on to it for too long. Pass it, move, let someone else do something. Just try to keep it moving. And I think that some of the plays that we’ve incorporated have that ingrained.”
Rosen said the Owls are trying to use the days off in their schedule to implement new offensive and defensive schemes. The team had eight days between its games against Delaware and California, and it will have a week from its game against Florida to the April 9 matchup against Vanderbilt.
“I believe that we match up well with everyone in our conference,” Rosen said. “Florida might have a little edge on us in terms of some of the matchup, but not in any way that we can’t compete with them. … As conference play becomes more scoutable, players have to be ready that the teams know them. They’ve watched them. They know their individual moves.”
Evan Easterling can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Evan_Easterling.