After one of the hottest starts to a season in the program’s recent history, Temple Field Hockey (9-3, 1-1 Big East Conference) began to falter in late September, dropping two straight games to Big East rival Villanova University (7-2, 1-1 Big East Conference) 3-2 and the University of Pennsylvania (1-7, 0-1 Ivy League Conference) 2-0.
Since then, the Owls defeated Georgetown University (3-9, 0-3 The Big East) 1-0 on Sept. 30 and Drexel University (6-5, 0-1 The Colonial Athletic Association) 3-2 on Oct. 2 which helped reduce the impact of the two vital losses.
Despite the wins, the Owls are now outside of the top 25 — just three weeks after becoming nationally-ranked for the first time since 2014 — due to their tough losses.
In bounce-back victories Georgetown and Drexel, the Owls capitalized on their chances, especially penalty corners, a theme which seemed lost in the two defeats. In their next few conference matchups, the Owls’ must match the energy from their wins for the team to reach the top of the standings.
Here are the key takeaways from Temple’s last four games.
Capitalizing on Chances
Throughout the season, the Owls have scored on their offensive chances and converted their penalty corner attempts with players setting up in correct spots within the circle.
These tactics were on display in their win against Drexel because a penalty stroke goal made a difference in the game, and the set plays fell in the Owls’ favor.
Unfortunately for the Owls, that was not the case in the two losses. In their loss to Villanova, Temple had many opportunities to finish the game in both overtime periods. Even in extra time, they were not able to get off shots due to bad positioning, or Wildcats’ sophomore goaltender Emma Leppert coming up with saves.
In the next game, against the then 0-7 Penn Quakers, Temple also went zero for seven on their penalty corner attempts, which was jarring because the Owls have been efficient on these plays, scoring on more than 35 percent of them prior to the game against Penn.
The Quakers have not blanked a team since they defeated the Owls 2-0 in October 2021.
Capitalizing on key opportunities around the net is the only way Temple can win close games, as seen in their one-goal wins against the Georgetown Hoyas and the Drexel Dragons. When the game gets close, one goal can make the difference.
Lack of strong finishes
At the beginning of the season, the Owls struggled with their slow starts to games, but the Owls had the opposite challenge in their woes against Villanova and Penn.
Against Villanova on Sept. 23, the Wildcats’ first goal came in the final five minutes of the first quarter, after Temple had jumped out to a 1-0 lead. In the second quarter, they scored in the final five minutes, making, what should have been a 2-0 Temple lead, a 2-2 draw at halftime.
The issue could be attributed to the Owls getting too comfortable after taking the lead and lacking the necessary energy for full games.
Temple also struggled to finish strong against Penn on Sept. 25. The Owls held the Quakers to just one shot in the first three quarters of the game, but once they reached the final quarter, the team became flat-footed and allowed seven shots and two goals, leading to their third loss of the season.
Yet in the following two games, Temple scored both a game-winner against Drexel and played solid defense in a late-game victory against Georgetown.
The Owls will need more consistent end of quarter performances as they advance into conference play. The competition will only become more difficult, with games against Providence College (5-6, 2-1 Big East Conference) and Liberty University (7-4, 3-0 Big East Conference) coming up.
Bright spot on defense
Senior defender McKenna Burkhardt scoring both of the goals against Villanova was one of the only bright spots to come out of the two games.
“It’s cool to be one of those key players that other teams look out for and being a key player for us as well,” Burkhardt said.
Burkhardt also assisted senior defender Nienke Oerlemans for the Owls’ sole goal against Georgetown and scored two against Drexel.
Burkhardt is now leading the Owls in goals this season, and is also tied for second in goals in the Big East Conference with eight.
The defender has been a strong leader for the Owls on the offensive and defensive side of the ball and will be a crucial piece to the team’s hopes to compete for the Big East Conference title.
The Owls will look to keep a positive record in conference play when they take on Big East rival Providence College (5-6, 2-1 Big East Conference) on Friday, Oct. 7 at 3 p.m.
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