Coach Bonnie Rosen admires the work ethic senior attacker Toni Yuko has displayed during her career.
“Her growth as a player is one of the proudest things I can say I experience as a coach, to watch someone persevere through, just kind of being the workhorse and sticking to it,” Rosen said.
Before she became a starter this season, Yuko would warm up for games and often end up not playing. Entering this season, her career-high for games played was eight in 2016.
This season, Yuko has already played 10 games. She has been in Temple’s (7-4, 2-1 Big East Conference) starting lineup for the past seven games, beginning with the Owls’ 18-15 win against Lafayette College on Feb. 25.
“I know that I don’t have to be waiting to get into the game,” Yuko said. “I have to be ready from the beginning.”
For three years, Yuko has been waiting to have a major role on the team.
Last season, Temple was senior-heavy at the attack position. Brenda McDermott, Brooke Williams, Anna Frederick and Carly Demato all played every game, while Morgan Glassford appeared in every game but one.
McDermott, Demato, Glassford and Frederick all scored 24 goals or more last season. The four players scored 127 of Temple’s 219 goals in 2017. Demato scored 35 of them primarily as a reserve.
“We’ve always had so many subs, and we’ve always been so deep on the attack,” Yuko said.
With the Owls’ scoring depth, Yuko only played in five games in 2017. She believes knowing she was a reserve helped her to focus on improving every practice.
Practices allowed Yuko to learn from her mistakes without the stress of possibly losing a starting spot, she said.
“I think over the years I’ve just kind of been like, prepping and gaining knowledge and being more solid and consistent in my play,” Yuko said.
Rosen said Yuko’s work has made her a versatile and dependable player.
She added that Yuko can keep the ball moving, draw attention from defenses and finish scoring opportunities when the chance is there.
Rosen called Yuko a player who is “the glue to an offense.”
“She’s the perfect compliment player in an offense,” Rosen said.
Yuko had a six-game goal streak that ended on March 24 in the Owls’ 9-8 double-overtime win against Cincinnati at Howarth Field. She averaged more than a goal per game during the stretch, but she never led the team in scoring in any of the games.
She has nine goals this season, which she attributes to executing Rosen’s game plans.
“I think every game, especially each game from the beginning to the end, I feel more confident on the field,” Yuko said.
“She has been the person who has been willing to work hard and be behind the scenes and keep learning,” Rosen said. “Throughout her past three years, I kept telling her, ‘You’re doing well. This will all pay off, I promise you.’ And so to see her finally in this role as a senior is one of the most rewarding things I can tell you as a coach.”