Showdown to decide fate

Win, and they’re in.

If the Temple field hockey team beats Saint Joseph’s tomorrow afternoon, it will clinch a playoff spot in the Atlantic Ten tournament.

“We are raring to go,” co-captain and goalkeeper Erin Conroy said. “The two victories last weekend upped our spirits, and everybody has a good mindset.”

Freshman middle-forward Ashley Bird said the back-to-back victories over LaSalle and West Chester have helped the team feel stronger about itself.

“For a while, there was a tense, irritable mood because we hadn’t gone on any kind of winning streak,” Bird said. “By winning last weekend, we are going into our next game with a ‘we can do this’ mentality.”

It has been a seesaw year for the Owls. On three different occasions, they’ve won two games in a row, and if they beat the Hawks it will mark their longest winning streak of the season at three games.

Coach Lauren Fuchs likes the Owls’ chances against St. Joe’s.

“Both teams have been up and down throughout the season, but I think we match up against them very well,” Fuchs said. “It will be an aggressive game that most likely will be decided by one goal.”

Conroy stressed the Owls must be ready to play and stay focused.

“It doesn’t matter if we are playing against St. Joe’s, the University of North Carolina, or the granny league,” she joked. “It will be a dogfight, with both teams being in a tight spot, so we have to be ready.”

If Temple loses on Saturday, the final three playoff spots for the A-10 tourney are up for grabs. Even if they lose, the Owls could still clinch a playoff berth if either West Chester or Massachusetts lose its final game. However, a Temple loss and wins by both West Chester and UMass would leave the Owls out of the playoffs.

Fuchs isn’t even trying to figure out all the possible playoff scenarios.

“I am going to worry about all that if it happens,” she said. “We are preparing to win, and if we do that, we don’t have to worry about anything else.”

If the Owls do clinch a playoff berth, there are a couple areas in which they must continue to improve if they are to go deep in the playoffs. Fuchs emphasized a need to improve defense.

“Our one-on-one defense… has to tighten up so we are not giving up as many corners,” she said.

Another area that could use improvement is team communication.

“We can always get better with our communication and the way we work together on the field,” Bird said.

She added that the Owls have played with more heart since midseason, and is certain the must-win games are the reason for the change. The players said the late-season surge is due to a change in attitude.

Bird said she and the other first-year players are not letting the pressure affect their play. Even Conroy thinks the freshmen are very composed despite their inexperience.

“None of them have said anything about being nervous, and they are handling the late-season pressure well,” Conroy said.

To stay loose and get into the Halloween spirit, several of the Owls showed up at Wednesday’s practice with their faces painted or in costume.

“This is a planned event every year, and both the players and coaches look forward to it,” Fuchs said.

At the end of practice, Fuchs and her assistants threw candy at the players as they waited anxiously with plastic bags, seeing who could collect the most. Overall, the Owls are just looking for a win and berth into the playoffs. That would be much sweeter.

Dan Murphy can be reached at

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