After playing in just seven games her freshman year, Courtney Taylor was unsure if she wanted to play for Temple University’s women’s lacrosse team (10-3, 6-2 The American Athletic Conference) again.
“Soccer had been my main sport growing up,” Taylor said. “But at the end of my freshman year when I wasn’t getting playing time, I thought about if I should’ve changed my decision and played soccer instead.”
Three years later, Taylor, a senior supply chain management major, is one of the best defenders in The American Athletic Conference and is one of Temple’s team leaders as a captain.
As Temple’s best defender, Taylor is tasked with guarding opposing teams’ best attacker for entire games. After her freshman season, she focused on improving her footwork to become more agile and precise in her defensive positioning.
“What I do a little bit differently is that I look at film for the whole defense rather than just myself,” Taylor said. “From there, I look at our team defense and talk people through looking at that film.”
Taylor was named The American’s Defensive Player of the Week on April 19 and is ranked first in the nation in ground balls per game with 4.23 and sixth in caused turnovers per game with 2.38.
Taylor is one of the best defenders head coach Bonnie Rosen has ever coached, Rosen said.
“[Taylor] could be a real contender for playing at the national team level,” Rosen added. “She’s fast, strong, quick and has great reaction time. She’s as competitive as anyone out there, and she’s confident in herself. She has the ability to do so many things on the field whether it’s transitioning the ball or shutting down a top attacker.”
The senior captain plays a pivotal role in Temple’s defense by organizing their formation during games, watching film to scout upcoming opponents and helping to set up specific matchups and schemes, Taylor said.
“It’s a joy to have another coach on the field,” Rosen said. “As [Taylor] has studied the game and studied our opponents, she’s been able to better understand what adjustments can be made on the fly. She’ll come over to us on the sideline and make suggestions. Pretty much at this point, when [Taylor] has an idea, I’m in full agreement of it.”
After her quiet freshman year, Taylor flourished during her sophomore season, starting in all 17 games and leading the team with 27 caused turnovers and finishing second on the team with 45 ground balls. Before the COVID-19 pandemic cut the team’s season short her junior year, Taylor started in all nine games, led the team with 15 caused turnovers and was tied for first with 21 ground balls.
This season, Taylor leads the team in ground balls with 55 and in created turnovers with 31.
In Temple’s 12-8 upset win over then-No. 11 Towson University on March 10, Taylor led the team with three caused turnovers and six ground balls. She limited two of Towson’s top three scorers, sophomore midfielder Blair Pearre and graduate student attacker Nikki Sliwak, to just two goals each.
Taylor credits her improvement and growth as a defender to constantly focusing on her footwork, she said.
“That makes a huge difference and is a big point when you’re developing,” Taylor added. “It’s something that a lot of our younger girls right now need to continue working on to get to where I am. When I was a freshman, I couldn’t really keep my feet moving but it showed that as I practiced more, it got a lot better.”
Taylor frequently tells the rest of Temple’s defense how important it is to improve their footwork, said freshman midfielder Maddie Barber.
“She yells at me all the time, ‘Maddie keep moving your feet,’ and is constantly reminding me of that,” Barber added. “After every one-on-one, she’ll say afterwards, ‘Just keep your feet moving. Keep your feet moving.’ She’s always giving little pointers of what we can do better and how we can fix something and not let it happen again.”
Temple’s younger defenders have progressed quickly this season in large part to Taylor’s leadership, Barber said.
Barber is third on the team in ground balls with 25 and sixth on the team in caused turnovers with 10.
“I’ve become a better lacrosse player very quickly,” Barber said. “[Taylor] has a lot of information and has a very high lacrosse IQ. I just listen and take in everything she says and then try and apply it to the next rep. She’s an amazing defender and if I want to be as good as her, then I need to do what she’s saying.”
When Taylor became a team captain, she knew it would be a lot of responsibility because she remembered how much she learned from captains during her freshman season, she said.
“That made me realize that I do have a big part on this team to help everyone out, and so my input matters,” Taylor added.