With three minutes, 30 seconds left in the Owls’ game against the University of Maryland at Baltimore County on March 4, freshman goalkeeper Maryn Lowell dove on the turf at Howarth Field to keep the ball from going in the net.
Temple had a six-goal lead, so the goal likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the game. But for a young defense that is still trying to find its identity early in the conference schedule, Lowell’s stop was an important one.
Temple (8-2, 1-1 Big East Conference) lost its conference opener to the University of Denver on March 19 in Colorado. The Pioneers, who are ranked 14th in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association Poll, ended the Owls’ five-game win streak when they won 14-6.
“I think our team is hopefully more aware of the level we need to play at in the Big East now and what it will take,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “I think there is a better sense of urgency that every repetition matters. Coming away from Denver, I think we learned what it’s going to take.”
A week later, the Owls won their second conference game against Marquette University in overtime, 17-16.
Temple finished the nonconference portion of its schedule with a 7-1 record. Its only loss came against the ranked Princeton University team. The Tigers, who are currently ranked sixth in the IWLCA poll, won 19-3. Temple received votes in Monday’s Inside Lacrosse poll.
In its next eight games, Temple will have to face three teams ranked in the Top 40 in goals per game in Division I: The University of Florida, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt University.
Florida, ranked No. 3 in the IWLCA poll, leads Division I in goals per game with an average of 16.67. Cincinnati averages 12.8 goals per game, while Vanderbilt averages 13.62.
Temple is ranked fourth in the Big East and 40th in Division I with 12.5 goals per game.
One of the biggest positions the Owls had to fill after last year’s run to the Big East championship game was goalkeeper. Jaqi Kakalecik, who was ranked eighth in Division I in goals against average, graduated at season’s end.
“Last year, we had four senior veteran defenders and they had a lot of time together and they knew each other and how each other played and had a lot of chemistry,” senior defender Rachel Barile said. “But this year we have new, young, fresh feet and new people, so that kind of helps in a different way. I think we are all hungry to get after it and create a new identity for ourselves.”
Lowell and redshirt-freshman goalkeeper Kelsea Hershey have split time in net so far this season. They are part of a group of 12 freshmen and redshirt freshmen who didn’t have college experience before the season started.
After sitting out four games because of an ankle injury, Hershey returned to the field against Denver. She has a 3-1 record and has made 20 saves in 184 minutes of playing time.
Lowell has started the Owls’ last six games. She has given up 79 goals in ten games and 418 minutes of play. She has 52 saves and a 5-1 record.
The Owls are ranked ninth in the Big East with 7.2 saves per game, eighth with 7.7 caused turnovers per game and seventh with 16.4 ground balls per game. They have outscored their opponents 125-123 at the halfway mark of their season.
Temple has been relying on its offense to help get wins. The Owls have 10 players who have scored at least four goals. Six of those players have 10 or more goals. Graduate attacker Brenda McDermott and sophomore midfielder Amber Lambeth lead the team with 19 and 17 goals, respectively.
“The offense always, especially at the end of the games when we need the goals, they step it up,” Lowell said. “That brings up the tone of the game again and after that we won’t get down anymore. Oftentimes the opponents won’t even score anymore goals because we are just on top of it.”
With a versatile offense and a young defense, Rosen wants her team to do the little things better.
“Defensively it’s a real expectation of being disciplined in the way we play and reading the game,” Rosen said. “Offensively one of the things we can do is continue to learn to shoot a little bit better so that every shot opportunity we create is a goal opportunity.”
Tessa Sayers can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SayersTessa.