The countdown to the end of the women’s soccer season began with 10 seconds left to play against Richmond on Sunday, and the remaining moments of a disappointing season seemed to tick away without a murmur.
After Temple’s 2004 campaign ended in a 2-0 loss and with a near identical record from last season at 4-13-1 overall, 1-8-1 in the Atlantic Ten Conference, both teams met for the traditional handshake, the Owls embraced each other on the sideline, and coach David Jones conducted his usual postgame speech.
Before the game Temple recognized its five seniors – goalkeeper Jackie Mauro, midfielders Nyki Stroman, Melissa Foley and Christine McInaw, and defender Courtney Eaton. It was bittersweet, as they bought closure to the bank of memories they collected throughout the last four years.
But this wasn’t the type of season anyone had expected, especially after going through growing pains.
Temple finished 2003 going 4-14-1 overall, 2-9 in the A-10, and had thoughts of getting things together and becoming a force in the conference this year. But the Owls suffered through two huge four-game losing streaks, rapidly dropping them in the conference standings. The last time Temple finished a season with only one conference win was in 2001.
“This is not where we wanted to be,” Jones said. “But look at some of the things we accomplished – we were in a lot more games, we lost a couple games by a goal, we didn’t give up as much goals as last year and we scored more goals. That’s an improvement, but obviously we have a ways to go.”
Jones said it’s going to be a long, hard road to bring the program to a certain level of competitiveness, but it’s a goal he sees as being attainable. The team will return 17 players next year, including rising junior Kelly Anne Lare, who led Temple with three goals and seven points.
The two biggest questions the Owls must face in the offseason will be their offense and goalkeeping. Of Temple’s 13 losses, 12 were shutouts, and aside from Lare only six other players scored more than one goal. The Owls don’t have a big-time scorer to lean on, something most good teams have. It’s not recruiting the blue-chippers that’s the tough part, it’s just there aren’t a lot of top-flight scorers.
Jones hopes to solve that problem in the offseason with recruiting trips throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, where most of his contacts are located.
“You hope that it’s someone that another school doesn’t want or someone that can develop on the college level,” he said, “but there are kids out there. Once we do that we can create some competition, even within our own team, which I think is sometimes what you need.”
But Jones won’t point the finger solely on the offense. He said the team must also improve on defense, especially when it comes to letting up goals early in games.
And another reliable stopper behind goal, as Mauro had proven to be in her career, will be greatly needed. Mauro leaves Temple second on the school’s all-time save list with 391 saves. Behind her is junior Elizabeth Tarasevich, who started in four of the seven games she appeared in this season.
Mauro kept the Owls in countless games over the last four years, and as she walked off the field one last time, she vividly recalled her first collegiate game, against Fairleigh-Dickinson. In that game she didn’t know there was an overtime period at the collegiate level, so she left the field and started packing her bags before a teammate told her she wasn’t finished just yet.
It was a lesson learned, and she couldn’t believe four memorable years had come to an end.
“Ninety minutes goes by so quickly,” she said. “It’s been fun and frustrating at times, but I definitely had a good time – all the memories and friendships I’ve made, the experience of playing college soccer.”
All that Mauro and the other four seniors can do is wish the Owls the best of luck next season.
“Hopefully they can look back once we turn it around and say, ‘hey, we were there when it started,” Jones said, “and we were a part of it.”
Chris Silva can be reached at email@example.com.