The Owls had six freshmen on the roster last season and although five of them returned with experience for their sophomore year, coach Tonya Cardoza made one thing clear.
“We are still very young,” Cardoza said.
The 2013-14 squad adds three new freshmen to the roster, with two centers in Safiya Martin and Taylor Robinson and a guard in Feyonda Fitzgerald.
With the attributes this year’s freshman class brings to the roster, it will be looked on to contribute right away.
“It’s really important that our sophomores and our freshmen do well for us and get better every day in practice,” Cardoza said. “Especially our freshman class, because our freshman class has two bigs in it. Right now, without the freshman class, we’re really small.”
“[Fitzgerald] is probably going to start for us,” Cardoza added. “With [junior guard] Tyonna [Williams] out on the floor with her, it helps us a lot because she’s not out there by herself. She’s someone who can push the tempo for us or she can play defense. She can do a lot. She brings a lot but obviously she’s young, but we’re going to need her to grow up and not play like a freshman, but go out and play more like someone who can get the job done.”
Responsibility extends to the sophomores as well, the guards in particular. Meghan Roxas and May Dayan each appeared in 30 games last year and working on their shot has been a priority during the offseason.
“I worked on just being in better shape and shooting consistently so I can be more of a scorer at all times in the game,” Roxas said. “If I’m tired, I’m not missing and airballing, I’m able to hit any open shot whenever the team needs me.”
“Meg Roxas has definitely improved her shooting,” Cardoza said. “It felt like last year, she could get her shot off, but it was inconsistent. I think up to this point now, she [was] definitely more consistent than she was last year being able to come in and knock down shots, but also being able to defend on the other end as well. That was something she struggled with.”
For Dayan, the work has been on getting shots off quicker and making sure she is taking shots.
“Maya passed up a lot of open shots and she’s a really good shooter,” Cardoza said.
Sophomore guard Erica Covile played in 16 games last season and averaged 4.6 points per game, but Cardoza expects a lot more of her this season, as she is likely to see a lot more playing time.
“Erica is probably going to be the biggest one we expect the most from in that sophomore class,” Cardoza said. “She sat out most of last year and the games that she played in, she didn’t play in a lot of minutes.”
“This year we’re expecting her to be a starter and one of our better players,” Cardoza added. “We expect her to get on the backboards, get us eight to 10 points a game, but she’s definitely a player from that sophomore class that we’re expecting big things from.”
Last season had its ups and downs, with Temple finishing 14-18 in the regular season, but managing to make its way to the Atlantic 10 Conference semifinals, where the Owls would end up losing to Fordham 66-55.
But before that loss, Temple defeated Xavier 52-45 in the first round, then Charlotte 48-47 in the quarter finals. It was in those games where it felt like things were starting to click.
“Last year was a tough year because we didn’t do so well throughout the regular season and then the tournament came and we all pulled together,” Roxas said. “We became a team. So now, we’re trying to take that momentum from those last few games and start off really well.”
The team will be making the switch from the A-10 over to the American Athletic Conference.
“We need to stick together,” Roxas said. “When things are going good, we’re always together, we’re working hard and we’re always communicating. But when things get tough, we need to learn to stick together and just be all on the same page.”
“I definitely feel like this year we’re going to be a better team,” Dayan said. “Last year, the ending was good when we made it to the semifinal, but we didn’t have a good start to the season and this year I feel like we are going to be a much better team.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @itssnick215.