As the games have heightened in importance, the women’s lacrosse team has faltered.
During the week leading up to Temple’s Big East Conference opener against Florida on March 28, coach Bonnie Rosen called the Gators “susceptible.” Three days later, it was the Owls who wound up on the wrong side of a 17-3 scoreline in a game that was never close.
A week later, in preparation for the Owls’ matchup with Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee on April 4, Rosen said her team’s goal was “to take the Commodores down.” The Owls fell to their first-year Big East foe, 14-8, despite collecting 10 more draw controls and taking more shots.
Now, even with its 8-3 record, Temple sits in sixth place in the conference standings, and if the Big East tournament were to start today, the Owls wouldn’t be a part of it.
After an 8-1 start to her team’s season, junior midfielder Megan Tiernan talked about movement on offense being one of the main issues through the last two games.
“We tend to think we are moving a lot, but we are not always doing it,” she said. “We need more fast-paced cuts and [movement] on top of the crease. A lot of movement can confuse defenses, which can lead to goals.”
Against Florida, Temple scored three times, the fewest it has scored on an opponent this season, and the Owls also tallied less than their season average of 9.91 goals per game against Vanderbilt this past Saturday when they scored eight. Along with movement, a possible explanation for the team’s dip in production could be the lack of offensive output from leading goal scorer and junior midfielder Nicole Tiernan.
After scoring 26 goals in Temple’s first nine games – an average of almost three per match – Tiernan has only been able to find the net twice in conference play.
“Teams are catching on to what drives I like to do,” she said. “ I have to be able to drive and kick the ball back, and do different things. Florida face guarded me and Vanderbilt hedged early, so I just have to use more of a variety of my offensive skills.”
On the defensive side of the field, ground balls and communication have two issues for the team during the two-game losing skid. Temple secured fewer ground balls than its opponents in both the Florida and Vanderbilt games, including 14 less against the Gators.
Junior defender Maddie McTigue mentioned communication as a problem after the loss to Florida, and redshirt-junior goalkeeper Jaqi Kakalecik also talked about the lack of communication after Temple fell to the Commodores.
Despite the losses, Kakalecik doesn’t think her team has lost the confidence it had early on in the season.
“I think we just need to find it again,” Kakalecik said. “We can find it by working hard in practice. We have realized that what we do in practice is what we need to do in games, and I think if we continue to get better in practice, we will start winning again.”
Temple’s next game is an away conference contest against Connecticut, and although it’ll mark only the third Big East matchup for the Owls, it could go a long way in determining Temple’s outlook for postseason play.
“This is a huge test for our team,” Rosen said. “This is what it means to be in a competitive conference. We have to be able to weather losing. We need wins to get into the Top 4, but we can’t focus on what the losses mean. We have to focus on what make us better. We are good enough to just show up and beat people, but we can’t play like that and expect to win.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Mattcockayne55.