Back-to-back shutouts highlight close of women’s soccer season.
With consecutive wins against Atlantic Ten Conference foes, sophomore midfielder Niki Conn and the women’s soccer team ended their erratic season on a high note.
The Owls (7-11-1, 3-8 A-10) started off the season hot, winning four of their first six contests and matching their win total from last year. That success would not last, however, as the Cherry and White proceeded to lose seven straight games, starting with their 3-1 loss to Binghamton Sept. 18. That streak, while devastating in the standings, did not affect the team’s demeanor as much as one might imagine, coach David Jones said.
“We were so close in a lot of those games,” Jones said. “I think it was a matter of we had a feeling that it was going to happen. At some point, we were going to be able to come back and win some games.
“We knew we were there each week,” Jones added. “That’s why the players kept coming back every Tuesday for practice.”
The Owls snapped the streak Oct. 11, when they matched up against cross-state rival Duquesne. Trailing 2-0 in the middle of the second half, Temple capped off an improbable comeback with a goal from Conn with five minutes remaining in regulation.
The win would merely stall Temple’s losing ways, as the team went on to lose three consecutive games afterward. However, the Cherry and White would regain some of their early season success as the season neared its end.
Facing Saint Louis on Oct. 25, the Owls relied heavily on a strong performance from their defense, as they held the Billikens to just four shots all game long and gave freshman goalkeeper Gillian Kacsuta her second shutout of the year.
“Gillian really stepped up,” Jones said. “I think everybody fed off of her and really stepped up to the challenge. To her credit, she had a great end to the season, and hopefully, she can use some confidence from that heading forward.”
Entering Saturday’s game against Saint Joseph’s, the Owls were determined to end their season, and team captain senior midfielder Carly Metzger’s career, with a win.
Kacsuta had another strong performance in net, blocking five shots en route to yet another shutout. Temple’s lone goal came off the foot of sophomore midfielder Tiia Kuokka for a 1-0 win.
Conn, who finished the season with a team-leading eight goals, faced double teams for the majority of the year, which opened up the field for other players on the team like freshman midfielder Kate Yurkovic.
“We probably had Katie out of position the first half of the season,” Jones said. “I think from the first day of preseason to [Saturday], she probably made the most improvement out of anybody on the team.
“In the beginning of the year, Katie was probably playing 45 or 50 minutes a game,” Jones added. “Now, she plays 90 minutes every game.”
All in all, the Owls improved on their win total from last year by three, including an extra win in the A-10. Metzger is the only graduating senior, and key players like Conn, Kacsuta and Yurkovic still have multiple years of eligibility left. Still, it would’ve been nice to have a more consistent season, Jones said.
“I think we proved toward the end of the season that we’re capable of shutting teams down defensively,” Jones said. “One of the negatives [about the season] is that it took until the end of the year. It would’ve been nice if we could’ve figured that out halfway through the A-10 schedule. It’s not like we did it with seven or eight seniors, though. We can really pick up where we left off.”
Kyle Gauss can be reached at email@example.com.