When senior defender Nicole Latgis started her career at Temple, she didn’t know how much she’d play during her four years.
During her freshman season in 2015, she had three appearances. She played in eight games as a sophomore. As a junior in 2017, she started all 18 games. Latgis led the Owls with 26 caused turnovers and finished second behind former midfielder Morgan Glassford in ground balls.
“I just let myself break out of my shell and just like go wild on the field,” Latgis said.
After the 2017 season, Latgis earned selection to the All-Big East Conference Second Team. Prior to this season, she was unanimously voted to the Preseason All-Big East team in the coaches poll.
“It gave me motivation also to keep pushing myself this year as a senior to end on a really high note,” Latgis said.
Through 14 games this season, Latgis leads Temple (8-6, 3-3 Big East) in ground balls and caused turnovers. With 41 ground balls and 29 caused turnovers, she has already surpassed last year’s totals. She is tied for 18th in Division I with 2.07 caused turnovers per game, as of Monday.
Latgis, whose teammates sometimes call her “Cole,” has also won 37 draw controls. Eight of her draw controls came in Temple’s 18-5 win against Butler University on Saturday. She ranks second on the team behind sophomore defender Kara Nakrasius, who has 52 draw controls.
“Cole is like my right-hand man on defense, and she taught me a lot last year coming into this,” said Nakrasius, who shares captaincy with Latgis and senior attacker Kira Gensler. “Cole has taught me so much about just holding body position, looking for those checks.”
“What makes Cole successful as a defender is totally just like her willingness to go hard all the time and never give up,” Nakrasius added.
But Latgis didn’t start her career as a defender. When she played for North Harford High School in Pylesville, Maryland, she was a defensive midfielder.
After arriving in Philadelphia as a freshman in the 2014-15 academic year, she found out she was going to be playing exclusively on defense.
“It took me a long time to adjust, a lot of meetings and talking and film work,” Latgis said. “It was hard, but I eventually got it down.”
“I’m sure at the time we had a lot of midfielders that her ability to learn and really grow as a defender was more important to our team,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “And I think it’s been a great decision. She’s really been able to hone her craft as a defender and make an impact for us there.”
Rosen added that Latgis’ stick skills from high school provide her with an extra edge. Latgis was already comfortable with handling the ball, which gave her an advantage under pressure.
“She comes up with great ground balls and can transition the ball because those midfield skills allow her to have the stick skills to go all the way to goal if we need it,” Rosen said.
Latgis recorded an assist to former attacker Nicole Barretta in the first game of the 2018 season, a 12-8 win against Rutgers University on Feb. 10 at Howarth Field.
The Rutgers game was Latgis’ first as a captain. She said her approach to playing the game hasn’t changed since taking the role, but her interactions with her teammates have.
“I’ve been working on my voice more,” Latgis said. “It’s made me a lot more comfortable to be able to step out of my shell. I used to not talk in huddles that much, not give my insight, but now I’m forced to. Now I give my insight to people and tell them what I think they should be doing, which can help the team.”
Rosen said players voted Latgis as a captain because they could count on her to play well during games.
“She has really taken it upon herself this year to learn how to do a lot more off-field stuff and the leadership stuff that requires vocal leadership,” Rosen said.