Katie Briglia has done it all for Temple field hockey this season.
Briglia, the team’s lone senior, has played multiple positions on the frontline, backline and in the midfield. With the Atlantic 10 Championships approaching this weekend, the senior midfielder said nothing is going to change.
“I’m more or less going out there and playing,” Briglia said. “We go over all the presses and plays we have to do in practice, but my whole thing is just going out there and playing and hustling and I’m excited to do it in a playoff setting.”
Third-seeded Temple will face Massachusetts, the two seed, on Friday, Nov. 2. With the Owls set to enter their final A-10 Championship, the team has a very positive outlook.
“I’m really, really excited and I really want to win,” junior defender Molly Doyle said. “I really have confidence in this team, and the fact that we can win it and I know we can win it makes it that much better.”
Temple is heading into the tournament with an 11-8 overall record, and a 4-2 conference record. The Owls’ two losses in conference have come to No. 16 Richmond and No. 18 Massachusetts.
Massachusetts will be hosting the championships this year in Amherst, with plays kicking off on Friday, Nov. 2.
Four teams make up the tournament, with the first seed playing the fourth seed, and the second seed facing the third seed in the first round.
Although this will be Briglia’s last chance to win the elusive A-10 Championship, she said that this year is more about the team.
“This year it’s a little bit different because for everybody it’s their last chance to win the A-10,” Briglia said. “Not only is it a big deal for me but it’s everybody’s last time as well and I think that’s a big momentum shift for us.”
Last year Bridget Settles led the Owls into the finals against Richmond, where Temple ended up losing a tight game 1-0.
But this season the younger Owls have already improved from last year, going into the playoffs with a winning record.
“I’m more prepared this year, I know what to expect and we’re going to go in with the same intensity that we do every year,” Doyle said.
The Owls are led by sophomore forward Amber Youtz, who has 21 goals and 10 assists this season. Briglia leads the team in assists with 11, and is tied for third on the team with 21 points.
For coach Amanda Janney, though, the Owl’s diverse scoring offense is their strength.
“This is probably the best team we’ve ever had here, we have a lot of variety in our scoring and we have a lot of strong attackers,” Janney said. “I think [sophomore goalkeeper Lizzy Millen] is the best goalie in the nation.”
Temple has five different players with six or more goals. With nine goals this year, freshman forward Alyssa Delp is tied with junior forward Lauren Hunt for second on the team in goals.
Delp is one of three freshmen that has started in every game for the Owls.
“I’m really excited because we’ve worked so hard all season, so for it to pay off in some way it just feels really relieving,” Delp said.
No. 17 Richmond will be entering tournament play as the top seed, with an undefeated conference record. The Spiders’ biggest wins this season have come against Temple, Massachusetts, and No. 19 William & Mary. The Spiders’ losses this year have come against teams ranked in the Top 20.
“[Richmond]’s No. 17 ranking is legitimate,” Janney said. “They have some great attackers and solid goalkeeping. Richmond has certainly shown that they are a Top 20 team.”
With a 12-8 overall record and a 6-1 record in the A-10, No. 18 Massachusetts is coming into the tournament as the second seed and will play against Temple in the first round.
Getting past them in the first round will be tough, Briglia said.
“I think Massachusetts will be the tougher team, just because we will end up playing them twice in two weekends, and I think that it will be a tough contest for us.”
Forward Nicole Cordero and midfielder Kim Young, both seniors, lead the Minutewomen offensively. Cordero leads the team with 12 goals and a .500 shot percentage, and Young has 11 goals, five assists and three game-winning goals.
Massachusetts’ biggest wins came against No. 1 Syracuse and Temple.
“We have the advantage of getting to see [Massachusetts] twice,” Janney said. “Hopefully our team is the smarter team and we have a smart strategy that we’re able to figure out what works well against them and what works for us.”
In their first season in the A-10, Virginia Commonwealth University has been turning a few heads, and will compete in the A-10 Championships as the No. 4 seed.
The Rams have an overall record with 12 wins, but struggled in conference play, going 3-3.
“VCU will be out to beat the top team,” Briglia said. “[VCU] lost in their first few A-10 games, and they will have learned a lot playing other A-10 teams.”
Both Briglia and Janney said confidence and energy are the keys for this young Temple team heading into their final trip to the A-10 finals.
With a past of strong performances in the conference tournament, Briglia said that she wants a rematch from last year.
“I hope it’s Temple and Richmond in the final game,” Briglia said. “It’s been like that for two out of my three years here, and we’ve beaten them in the regular season last year and my freshman year and then lost in the playoffs. So it would be nice after a loss in the regular season for us to get them back in the championship in my last year.”
Colin Tansits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @colin_tansits.