It was a step up.
That’s how the Owls will look back on their inaugural season in the Big East Conference after it came to an end in the semifinals of the conference tournament via a 3-0 loss to No. 7 Connecticut on Friday, Nov. 8.
On Sunday, Nov. 10, it was announced that the team was not given an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament.
“The Big East was a nice step up for us in terms of the level of competition that we have,” coach Amanda Janney said. “All four teams in the tournament were ranked Top 20 and that wasn’t the case last year.”
If there is one thing the 2013 team proved, Janney said, it’s that they are ready for the level of competition they encountered in its new conference.
Temple finished the regular season 14-5 overall and 4-3 in the Big East. The loss in the postseason was Temple’s second in a row to UConn after getting beat by the Huskies 7-0 the week before.
The Owls performed much better against UConn the second time around, but the results didn’t change in what was the first time they lost back-to-back games all season.
“I think we played well, but the scoreboard didn’t really show that in terms of our effort and our ability to really move the ball and get a lot of momentum in the second half,” Janney said.
Although the Owls fell in the first round of the tournament, the team exceeded the expectations that were set for them in the preseason. A Big East coaches’ poll had the Owls finishing sixth of the eight teams in the conference and out of postseason play. They finished with a national ranking and the fourth seed in the conference tournament.
“Starting from preseason, we were viewed as the underdog and it just propelled us to do as well as we did,” sophomore forward Alyssa Delp said. “We really like to be the underdogs because then no one really expects us to do much of anything and it gives us a chance to prove everybody wrong. I think a lot of the season is credited to that.”
The season’s end means that midfielders/defenders Molly Doyle and Mandi Shearer and forward Lauren Hunt’s time on the team is up.
“The season has been great,” Doyle said. “It’s been really memorable for me, being a senior and being a captain I had to play some important roles on the team, but it was just a really fun year for me.”
“Our team played great and people really stepped up all over the field,” Doyle added. “We have a great core group of girls and everyone worked really hard this year on and off the field. From our redshirts to our starters, everyone played a really important role.”
This season was, by most accounts, a success for the Owls. However, the outlook for the team might be even better.
“Our program has gotten better and better every year,” Janney said. “We’re happy with the continued improvements, and we do have some very strong underclassmen that were a lot of starters.”
That includes the freshman class, which saw forwards Katie Foran and Sarah Keer, midfielder Paige Gross and midfielders/defenders Michelle Walsh and Ali Meszaros all get playing time this season.
Three more players from the freshman class, midfielders/defenders Elle Hempt, Shawna Chopko and Taylor Janney, haven’t gotten on the field yet.
“There is a lot of great potential in that [freshman class] that we haven’t put on the field yet,” Amanda Janney said. “We have a lot to do in the spring, but I think we’re going to be even better next season in terms of that we’re returning with a strong team.”
Doyle, now a former co-captain, said she can’t wait to see it all happen.
“I already told the girls that I can’t wait to come back and watch them and see how much they’ve grown,” Doyle said. “Next year – I think all the girls on the team have grown so much this year, they’re only going to lose three seniors – it’s going to be really fun to watch some of the younger girls step up, and for everyone to just hone in on their skills to work on over the spring and just come back ready to play in the fall.”
“I think the outlook … the team is only going to get better,” Doyle added. “I think they’re going to be a Top 20 program once again next year, and the years moving forward a Top 10 team.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.