Temple’s time in the Atlantic 10 Conference is over, and for some Owls, the summer will be spent preparing to enter their first season as affiliate members of the Big East Conference.
The field hockey and lacrosse teams are affiliate members of the Big East, due to a lack of programs in the American Athletic Conference. Playing in the Big East will allow Temple to play against better competition and have a better shot at qualifying for the NCAA tournament. However, the old rivalries the Owls created in the A-10 won’t be going away any time soon.
The 2013 schedule, which was officially released on Wednesday, shows that Temple will play their former A-10 rival Richmond on Sept. 8 at Geasey Field, but this time as a non-conference opponent.
“I think that’s really interesting for us,” coach Amanda Janney said. “They have always been a huge rival for us and it’s strange not having [the University of Massachusetts] on the schedule either, because Richmond and UMass have always been huge rivals for us.”
“Every game is important,” Janney added. “But that rivalry we have had with Richmond is not going away just because of our conference change. So we’re still excited for that game.”
The home game against Richmond is also serving as both Alumni and Patriots Day. Temple and Richmond alumni will return to campus for the game, while both games will be played in memory of 9/11.
With teams like Drexel (Oct. 20) and Villanova (Sept. 20) on the schedule as well, the Owls will also be playing for the title of best field hockey team in Philadelphia. Janney also hopes these games will prepare the Owls for postseason play.
“The local game against Drexel is another one that we hope will get us ready for the postseason,” Janney said. “They’ll be tough competition. Them and Villanova, we want to make [both of them] a big day for us as a team. We want to be the best field hockey team in Philadelphia and we have to beat those teams to say that.”
Being the best team in Philadelphia is a good title to have, but Temple has bigger goals in mind, like qualifying for the Big East Championship, getting ranked as one of the Top 20 teams in the nation and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament.
For the past eight years, the Owls have finished within the top four of the A-10 standings to qualify for postseason play in the A-10 Championships.
Just like in the A-10, the Owls will have to be one of the top four seeds in the Big East to keep the streak going. However, conference play will start earlier this time around. Conference play begins on Sept. 20 against Villanova, rather than starting in October like before.
“This season is going to be a little bit different,” Janney said. “We need to make sure that our team is primed and ready to play well against our conference competition. A game on September 20 could mean the postseason for us.”
“Our challenge is going to be maintaining that consistency and success in winning in the regular season so we can qualify for the postseason tournament, which is really important for us moving into the Big East,” Janney added.
Temple will play seven of last year’s Top 25 teams in the country, with No. 25 Louisville (Oct. 4), No. 19 Richmond (Sept. 8), No. 15 Drexel (Oct. 20), No. 13 Lafayette (Oct. 27), No. 8 Old Dominion (Oct. 13), No. 4 Connecticut (Nov. 2) and No .3 Penn State (Sept. 6) all on the schedule. Four of those teams—Villanova, Old Dominion, Louisville and Connecticut—are Big East teams.
The other teams in the Big East – Georgetown, Providence and Rutgers – are teams that are also likely to provide new challenges for Temple. However, Janney believes that this year’s team can handle the tough road ahead.
“We are returning with great players and we are in a really good position from our spring season, only losing one senior [Katie Briglia],” Janney said. “So we are expecting to have our team step up against these Top 20 teams and really compete to our best ability. Hopefully we can knock off a few of them and get ourselves ranked in the top 20.”
“We think it’s a nice step up for us,” Janney added. “We’re in a better position, playing tougher teams to make the NCAA tournament, because you have to win your conference to get the automatic bid. For us the Big East has that automatic bid, whereas the A-10 did not. They had a play in game, so it’s a much better conference that we are moving into.”
The other way to qualify for the tournament is to earn a high enough rank and have a high enough RPI (rating percentage index) to earn an at-large bid.
With the seven ranked teams on the schedule, Temple will have the opportunity to earn that bid. They just have to go out and win the games. Temple finished the 2012 campaign with a 12-9 regular season record, their first winning season in six years.
With senior and team captain Molly Doyle, junior forward Amber Youtz, who was one of the top scorers in the nation last year with 22 goals and 54 points, and a roster that features three seniors out of 25 players, the Owls have a young, solid team to work with.
“A majority of our starters are set,” Janney said. “I feel like we have better depth than we did last year, so we are expecting to do really well in our conference and obviously carry that with us during conference play.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter at @itssnick215.