On August 9th, the first day of training camp, seniors Jackie Krostek, Karly O’Toole and Amanda Ward discussed the new direction of the women’s soccer program and their thoughts on the conclusion of their collegiate careers.
Edwards: It’s just the three of you seniors, so how did it feel, coming out to your first practice and realizing that a majority of your teammates are under 20 years old?
O’Toole: “I think for us, we get used to it in the spring. I think that was when the big shocker was, when you look around and you’re like, ‘We are the only ones older than 20. Oh my God.’”
Krostek: “Last year we had a big class so it’s like ‘Oh, we’ve got another one.’”
Ward: “It’s like a fresh start.”
Edwards: Does it make you guys feel old?
O’Toole: “Oh, I feel old.”
Krostek: “I’m the oldest. I’m the fifth year senior.”
O’Toole: “Second oldest.”
Ward: “I’m almost 21.”
O’Toole: “I think Jackie should sure feel old.”
Krostek: “I think the running joke this year is that I’m going to be the grandma of the team. Seamus has already been pulling the grandma jokes with me.”
Edwards: No group trips to the Draught Horse, right?
O’Toole: “Yeah, it’ll just be the three of us.”
Krostek: “It’ll just be us. The three amigos. The three musketeers. Whatever you want to call it.”
Edwards: Being at Temple, you guys started off with coach Matt Gwilliam, in the Atlantic-10 Conference. Fast forward some years, now it’s The American Athletic Conference, new coach, brand new conference, a completely different team, a different class than you came in with. How strange has the transition from then to now been?
O’Toole: “It’s different. The RPI for The American twelve is better than the Big East. That’s an even bigger transition because now you’re playing even better competition than you thought you would. All spring, we thought we were in the Big East, even that was a big enough transition. Now, it’s a step above that. So, I think it’ll be a learning experience but I think that this team has nothing to lose and all to compete for.”
Krostek: “Also, I think between having a new coach [and] a bunch of new young girls, who don’t really know. Half of our team has only been through one season. There’s only four of us who have more than a full season under our belts. We literally have nothing to lose, we can only just compete, take every game as it comes, and play our heart out.”
O’Toole: “I like no expectations.”
Edwards: You just mentioned that you guys are the only ones who have more than a season of playing time. How does that help you individually and how does it help the team?
Krostek: “I think what we can do, being that we have more than one season under our belt, I think that we can help the younger girls as much as we can. I think the biggest [difference] between high school and college [is that it’s] a more physical game. So, if we can get hard on them during practice [that can make] the transition from high school to college easier. I think if we treat every practice like it’s a game, just make it as realistic as we can for practice, that’ll only help the girls transition into their first or second season.”
Edwards: It’s obvious that there has been a bit of a youth movement, more than half of the team are sophomores or lower. How does this directly affect your success this year, or does it affect it at all?
O’Toole: “When we get prepared for a game, everybody has a scouting report. I’m sure what’s on everybody else’s scouting report about us is that we’re a young team. A young team that hasn’t played together that long. To them, that’s like a walk in the park. For us, it just gives us an opportunity to prove that we shouldn’t be taken lightly. The sophomores, they made a big impact last year [and this year] I expect that they will do the same. I think that with the camaraderie we have already [and] bringing in these new girls, it will mesh well. I think ultimately we will find our own success, whatever that may be.
Ward: It’ll help [having the new girls] because no one really knows who we are yet. In the spring, we played five games with [the sophomore class] and I think we’ve been improving. I think that was great soccer since I’ve been here, that we’ve ever seen. It’s just been building and building and building and with these new girls, they’re just going to add to it. It can’t hurt.
Krostek: “In the past, we’ve been seen as a defensive team and I know a lot of these younger girls [have] brought a lot of offensive aspects, so I don’t think people are going to be expecting the offensive aspect of our game to really be an impact. I think we’re going to have another asset to our game, not just being a defensive team trying to grab one goal.”
O’Toole: “I think our ultimate goal is to find an identity. I think that was our biggest struggle. I thought [Gwilliam] was a good coach but Seamus’ biggest focus is ‘Who are we?’ To other people who have played us, they don’t know who we are. They can’t pinpoint our style. We’re a physical team. We foul a lot. We have no problem throwing someone to the ground. You could see us as a defensive identity, but it didn’t help us win games, it just helped us stay in the game. So this year, I think [O’Connor] is looking for a different identity.”
Edwards: Has anything jumped out to you about the new girls yet? Anything caught your eye?
Krostek: “I can attest to that because I did all the timing and writing down, so I saw each of the groups. You can definitely tell who the forwards are, who the outside middies are. They definitely have some speed out there and some of them doing the technical drills, you could just tell that they’re comfortable with the ball, which is great. It’s awesome. I’m excited to see what was brought in with our young chickens.”
O’Toole: “Young chickens?”
Krostek: “You know like a spring chicken? Our new young hens. Whatever you want to call them.”
O’Toole: “I definitely think that they will have an impact. There’s so many of them that we need them to. There’s four of us that are upperclassmen. So, as much as they take on this role that they’re freshmen, it’s not just that they’re freshmen. They have to make an impact because we [upperclassmen] don’t have a lot of numbers. We have to lead, but they need to follow through. I think they’ve already stepped up to the plate, showed that they’re ready to go.”
Edwards: With the season nearly underway, what is the most important thing you want the younger players to understand by game one, either on the field or off the field?
Ward: “Compete and come ready to play.”
O’Toole: “We may be the underdog but we will never ever back down.”
Krostek: “Even if the score is 4-0 and we’re losing, we will not give up.”
O’Toole: “Don’t take the name for what it is. We play UConn and they’re a top nationally ranked team. Central Florida, they’ve been ranked #3 in the country before. Don’t ever overestimate somebody or underestimate this team. Whatever has happened with past records, it doesn’t matter anymore because that’s in the past. We have a new direction this year. We literally have a new everything.”
Krostek: “New trainers. New coaches.”
O’Toole: “It’s all new. At the end of the day, we’re leaving. It’s their program.”
Ward: “Everything is up for grabs.”
O’Toole: “We’ll guide them for what should happen, but at the end of the day, it’s ‘What do they want out of it?’”
Krostek: “This is the start of a new page, a new chapter, in Temple soccer. This is their program. They’re molding this new conference. They’re making their name of Temple women’s soccer. I think they need to understand that they have an opportunity here to make a really big impact on this program. If they’re willing to follow, we can lead them as best as we can, but at the end of the day, this is going to be their program. The freshman and sophomores, it’s going to be theirs.”
Edwards: Finally, how do you see your final year playing out?
O’Toole: “I feel that it will play out that I won’t have any regrets. I think it’ll be that every single game, we’ll never leave the field without putting everything out there. As long as we push, I know that every single one of them will push for us too.”
Krostek: “I think when it comes to your senior year, you feel like this is my last time to do everything I said I wanted to do in the past. This is our last time playing in competitive atmosphere.”
O’Toole: “This is it.”
Krostek: That’s the biggest thing I’m trying to make myself understand, that this is it. This is your last time to really represent your university. I want to be part of the change that’s going on here. I want this year, my senior year, to be the changing year.”
O’Toole: “I want people to talk about us. [Last year], a couple of people took a couple of shots and I think that I do not want people to talk about the bad things. Let’s focus on the good. Hopefully, we have something to show. That’s on us, but I want people talking about us. I want people to say ‘you should go check out a women’s soccer game.’”
Ward: “We’ve been playing since we were this big and now finally, we’re where we want to be.”
O’Toole: “It’s so weird.”
Krostek: “Eighteen years in the making and now, this is ending.”
O’Toole: ‘It’s something you never thought you’d see the end of. It’s not like going to high school or going to college because you do it for four years then you change. This has been in my whole life and it takes you back. I can’t believe this is it.”
Krostek: You’re in a fog. For me, last year was supposed to be my last year technically. I’m still in denial that this is my last year. I’ve been slowly accepting it.”
O’Toole: Once it’s over, it’s going to be sad. Every single one of us, that’s our identity. You’re a Temple women’s soccer player. We’re all soccer players. My whole life, I’m a soccer player. That was your whole identity.”
Krostek: “It’s going to be weird because normally I say ‘I play soccer at Temple.’”
O’Toole: “Now it’s ‘I graduate. I work here. My life sucks.’”
Krostek: “It’ll be so different. I’m going to literally enjoy second of it, whether it’s the lowest of the lows or the highest of the highs. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it and just try to remember it. This is it.”
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @BErick1123.