On a typical afternoon at Howarth Field, coach Marybeth Freeman’s whistle signals the end of practice for 21 student-athletes.
The entire team reconvenes on the field before heading back into the locker room. The team has relied on team chemistry and leadership in its recent turnaround, one that has seen the Owls win four of their last six games.
Strong defensive play and dominant goalkeeping by freshman Maddie Lilliock has sparked this strong run by the team. In her last five games, the Palmyra, Pennsylvania native has only allowed an average of 1.6 goals per game and has posted a 71.4 save percentage to keep her team in the game.
“[Lilliock] is very present and doesn’t let adverse situations affect her going into the next game or the next situation,” Freeman said. “She’s really owned it, which we couldn’t be prouder about.”
When the Owls upset Old Dominion University, then ranked No. 13 in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll, on Oct. 7 at Howarth Field, Lilliock made a clutch save in overtime on a penalty corner opportunity for the Monarchs. About one minute later, junior midfielder Rachael Mueller netted the game-winning goal.
While the defense has played a major role in the turnaround, the offense’s recent resurgence has been instrumental. After scoring 12 goals in their first nine games, the Owls have 13 goals in their last six games.
The recent scoring outburst has helped the team stop its five-game losing streak and win four of its last six games.
“It’s definitely tough to get into the swing of things when you’ve had a couple of losses,” senior forward Katie Foran said. “But once we started winning, it really gave us the confidence back that we needed.”
Temple is relying on its upperclassmen to lead a team that lost 10 seniors from last year and has eight freshmen on its roster this season. Senior co-captains Foran, back and midfielder Ali Meszaros and midfielder Paige Gross understood that they would play an integral role in the development of the team.
Meszaros leads field players in minutes played, and Foran is tied for second on the team in goals with four, two of which are game-winners. All three captains have started all 15 games for the Owls this season and are leaders in the locker room.
“I really look up to all three of them,” Lilliock said. “They’re doing a really good job at leading the team and we know that we can always fall back on them.”
“They bring three different personalities to the table,” Freeman added. “The other 18 individuals are going to find someone in those three that they can relate to because they are so different.”
The Owls look to build on their recent success with a strong finish that will earn them a berth in the Big East tournament, which will take place at Howarth Field in early November. Two of their remaining three games are in conference.
“It’s just a matter of working really hard to win these next couple of games,” Lilliock said. “We have a lot of positive energy and we’re ready to go.”
Varun Sivakumar can be reached at email@example.com.