After their practice last Thursday, the Owls sat around talking and stretching. After a couple of moments, coach Bonnie Rosen had her players quietly take a moment to reflect on their days. She wanted them to think of what went well, what didn’t go well and a goal they wanted to accomplish.
For graduate attacker Brenda McDermott, that goal was easy: she wants to get back to the Big East tournament.
“Last year we made it to the championship and we lost to Florida,” McDermott said. “It’s been a motivation to get back there and definitely come out on top this time.”
Temple is coming off its first 13-win season since 2008, when the Owls won the Atlantic 10 Conference and made their most recent NCAA tournament. The Owls were one of four teams last season to reach the Big East tournament, where they eventually lost against a top-five nationally ranked University of Florida team.
They also lost 12 seniors to graduation and are only returning two starters, McDermott and senior midfielder Morgan Glassford.
“When you lose a large group of people who have grown and have really become nice players over four years, it’s a big loss initially,” Rosen said. “But I would say what it was initially was a lot of experience lost and a lot of enthusiasm gained, and now it really feels like we are one team who has been this way all year.”
Rosen is looking to her veteran players, especially McDermott and Glassford, to help the team’s 10 freshmen get settled and start contributing to the team.
The Owls lost three of their top scorers last year: Rachel Schwaab, Megan Tiernan and Kirstie Connor, who each finished with more than 20 goals. Schwaab led the team with 31 goals and 52 points.
Temple also lost goalie Jaqi Kakalecik, who played in all 19 games and recorded 1,144 minutes, 36 seconds in goal last year. She finished with 121 saves and ranked eighth in goals against average in Division I. Freshman goalkeeper Maryn Lowell will replace Kakalecik.
“Maryn has been doing really well in net,” Glassford said. “She stops so many shots.”
As a team captain, Glassford said it’s been a challenge to make sure the underclassmen know the plays.
“Ultimately come game day, our skills are going to be what allows us to play the game, stay in the game and win the game,” Rosen said. “But there is a lot of learning that goes into our offensive schemes, and our defensive schemes and then pressure situations.”
“Our seniors in general are going to help anchor us,” she added. “They have been through a lot, they have seen a significant amount of playing time, they have the sense of urgency that comes with being seniors. So we are looking to them to kind of set the tone and allow everyone else to come along right now.”
The University of Denver and Butler University joined the Big East this season to make it a 10-team league. Even with the expansion, the conference championship will remain a four-team tournament.
The Owls’ hope their trip in the 2016 season gives them the confidence they need to get back in 2017.
“I think the student-athletes that are in our program right now know that anything is possible,” Rosen said.
“We should be able to dream pretty big, and at the same time I think everyone is pretty grounded and understanding that it took a lot of hard work to get to where we got last year, and we don’t define ourselves by that team, but by what this team will be this year.”
Tessa Sayers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.