There are an awful lot of gray clouds surrounding the women’s soccer team recently, which makes it easy for the team to look toward better days.
“We definitely would’ve liked to have a couple more wins by now,” coach Seamus O’Connor said. “But we’re getting there. We’re moving toward where we think the program needs to be.”
Despite recent struggles within the American Athletic Conference, Temple has seen an upheaval in its program’s culture and the Owls see a bright future for their young roster.
Since shutting out Houston in its first conference game of the season, Temple has been outscored by a total of seven goals en route to a four-game losing streak. During the streak, Temple has been outplayed on offense – scoring two goals – and defense, allowing multiple goals in consecutive games against Central Florida and Connecticut.
“I knew it was going to be a harder level of play,” freshman midfielder Jillian DiBlasi said. “I’ve never played this level of play before. It’s completely different from any club team or high school. It’s very hard.”
For Temple, its losses within the conference have been the result of facing greater overall rosters. O’Connor said teams in The American have been recruiting hotspots for several years.
“It’s not going to be a short-term fix,” O’Connor said “These teams have been good for 10 to 15 years. It’s going to take time to get to that level.”
Even with the recent losses, the Owls look to model themselves after their conference opponents and grow into a premier program in the near future.
“We can’t do it without the support of the administration, and I think that’s kind of been the biggest change,” O’Connor said. “The energy, a lot of energy, from the new administration. Moving into this conference, it stepped up everyone’s expectations.”
Under the tutelage of first-year coach O’Connor, the Owls have made strides on the field, but it is the positive changes off the field that will pay dividends going forward.
“We’re a little more professional,” senior defender Karly O’Toole said. “It’s a little more regimented. All the changes are for the positive. It’s so much better than it used to be. We get so much more respect from other people and I think people are beginning to identify us on campus and the other soccer schools.”
Among the changes made in 2013, the Owls have dedicated more time to studying film to improve their own play as well as analyzing opponents’ tendencies.
“The preparation before a game is undeniably the best that we’ve had,” O’Toole said. “I can’t speak for many years ago, but ever since [O’Connor has] been on board, the film that [the coaching staff watches], the hours they put in, it all comes together in preparation for us. They’re doing every possibility they can off the field to translate to us being able to do it on the field. Winning and losing games come down to us. As much as he takes the blame a lot, it is us on the field. He prepares us 110 percent. It’s us that need to deliver.”
As the Owls’ recruiting coordinator before his promotion to head coach, O’Connor had his hand in the recent transition of the Owls’ roster and wants to continue expanding their depth.
“I want to be the top option for recruits coming out of Philly,” O’Connor said.
In the last two seasons, Temple has brought in large freshman classes. Of their 28 active players, 25 are freshmen or sophomores, making up the brunt of the rotation.
Among its recruiting successes, Temple has also enticed valuable transfers. Sophomore defender Taylor Trusky and sophomore midfielder Kelly Farrell each transferred to Temple in 2013 and have started for the Owls the entire season. Farrell said Temple is growing into an attractive destination with the help of O’Connor.
“The team, the coaches, the whole atmosphere of the school,” Farrell said. “I’m so much happier here. It met my bar and exceeded it. He’s just a cooler coach to be able to talk to. He’ll talk to you straight up instead of sugarcoating it.”
The Owls said the transition will continue to be a challenging experience, but with their recent recruiting and continued off-field improvements, they’re excited for the future.
“The respect we gave [our conference opponents], we want in return,” O’Toole said. “I know in a couple years when I come back here, I’m going to be like, ‘Holy cow.’ We’re building a foundation and are continuing to rise.”
Though Temple has lost four consecutive conference games, O’Connor noted opposing teams’ treatment of Temple as equals shows the program is headed in the right direction.
“We try not to look at a loss as straight as a loss,” O’Connor said. “I try to tell the girls to look at the respect they’re getting from these coaches. They’re keeping their starting players out there. Switching their best attacker back to defense to make sure we don’t score on them. You’ve got to look at stuff like that. It’s been great for us to see that we can do it. It’s like anything, you just want to be appreciated for your hard work.”
Brien Edwards can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @BErick1123.