Featuring a roster of 24 underclassmen, this year’s women’s soccer team is set to be a youthful one.
“I’m excited to see what was brought in with our young chickens,” fifth-year senior Jackie Krostek said.
Krostek and fellow seniors Karly O’Toole and Amanda Ward followed that statement with laughter, acknowledging that the senior class seems more like senior citizens going into the new season.
“I think [Krostek] should sure feel old,” O’Toole said.
“[Coach Seamus O’Connor] has already been pulling the grandma jokes,” Krostek said.
With a roster largely filled with underclassmen players, Temple’s trio of seniors will be responsible for grooming the new era of Temple women’s soccer.
“This is the start of a new page, a new chapter in Temple soccer,” Krostek, a forward, said. “If they’re willing to follow, we can lead them as best as we can.”
2013 will mark a major transitioning period for Temple. This season, the team will be led by first-year head coach O’Connor and will play in the new American Athletic Conference, but it is the team’s underclassman-heavy roster that headlines the dramatic changes.
Of the 28 athletes on the current Owls’ roster, there are 11 freshmen and 13 sophomores. Aside from junior defender Alyssa Kirk, the three seniors are the only members of the team with more than a season of collegiate soccer experience.
“I’m sure what’s on everybody else’s scouting report about us is that we’re a young team, a young team that hasn’t played together that long,” O’Toole, a defender, said. “To them, that’s like a walk in the park. For us, it just gives us an opportunity to prove that we shouldn’t be taken lightly,”
Though the seniors believe most will see their team’s inexperience as a flaw for the current season, midfielder Ward sees the silver lining to the abundance of fresh faces.
“It’ll help [having the new girls] because no one really knows who we are yet,” Ward said. “I think we’ve been improving. It’s building, and with these new girls, they’re just going to add to it. It can’t hurt.”
Recent success with Temple’s 2012 freshmen class also gives the team optimism. Last year, Temple started some freshmen players and ended the year represented by sophomores, goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff and defender Erin Lafferty, on the Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie team.
“The sophomores, they made a big impact last year, [and this year] I expect that [the current freshmen] will do the same,” O’Toole said.
Even with last year’s underclassmen success stories, Temple has not recorded a winning record since 2000 and has struggled to gain popularity in recent years. For their final season donning an Owls jersey, the Temple seniors want to help shift the perception of the program by molding the future faces of the team.
“I want to be part of the change that’s going on here,” Krostek said. “I want this year, my senior year, to be the changing year.”
Krostek, the team’s most tenured athlete, believes that it is the seniors’ responsibility to prepare their young teammates for a physically challenging transition.
“I think the biggest [difference] between high school and college [is that it’s] a more physical game,” Krostek said. “So, if we can get on [the freshmen] during practice, [that can make] the transition from high school to college easier. I think if we treat every practice like it’s a game, just make it as realistic as we can, that’ll only help the girls’ transition into their first or second season.”
The Owls’ experienced players also understand that mental toughness is equally important for young players to learn at the collegiate level. When facing big name opponents, O’Toole advises young players that placing every opponent on even ground will absolve the intimidation they may feel.
“This team has nothing to lose and all to compete for,” O’Toole said. “We may be the underdog but we will never ever back down. Don’t take the name for what it is. Whatever has happened with past records, it doesn’t matter anymore.”
The group of seniors agreed that in 2013, they desire victories, but more importantly, they want their final year to carry weigh.
Brien Edwards can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @BErick112.