Temple (6-3, 1-0 Big East Conference) played its most complete game of the season on Sunday, coach Bonnie Rosen said.
The Owls beat the University of Denver, the No. 22 team in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, 10-9, at Howarth Field to earn their first win against a nationally ranked team since 2015.
“Everything about today was a big game for us,” Rosen said. “We’ve been working really hard for the last two weeks to improve our game, and to see it show up today against a very strong Denver team, you couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Temple won its conference opener for the first time since its final season in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2013. The team also won its third consecutive game.
In its final nonconference game, an 8-4 win against La Salle on March 12, Temple converted one of its nine free-position opportunities. On Sunday against Denver (4-3, 0-1 Big East), the Owls went 6-for-10.
Their final free-position score was sophomore midfielder Maddie Gebert’s goal with one minute, 12 seconds left in the game.
Six minutes earlier, Gebert had been knocked to the turf close to the Pioneers’ goal. She had the wind knocked out of her and was helped off the field by the athletic training staff.
Gebert returned to the game as soon as she caught her breath, and struck on her opportunity for payback. She beat Denver senior goaltender Katy Miele with a shot from the eight-meter mark to score her 17th goal of the season and give the Owls a two-goal cushion.
The goal proved to be important because Pioneers junior attacker Julia Feiss made it a one-goal game again with 31 seconds left.
Gebert said she usually runs into her free-position shots, but the Owls decided to try something different.
“I also did not want to get hit again, so I shot from out far,” Gebert said. “It was a change. I usually run in and shoot on eight meters, but I think a bit of the change this week was, ‘Hey, let’s try shooting from the eight this week, switch it up. …We haven’t done it before, they wouldn’t have scouted that.’”
Neither team consistently maintained strong momentum. Temple and Denver entered halftime tied at four, and the Pioneers only held a 10-8 advantage in shots on goal.
The Owls had the largest run by either team, a three-goal spurt to start the second half. That run gave the Owls their largest lead of the afternoon at 7-4 with 14:44 left.
“We were going back and forth in the beginning for a while, so for us to pull away from it definitely gave us a confidence boost,” junior midfielder Amber Lambeth said.
Lambeth scored twice for the Owls, including the first goal 9:40 into the game. Sophomore midfielder and attacker Olivia Thompson and sophomore midfielder Michelle Koscinski also each scored twice. Senior attacker Kira Gensler led Temple with three points.
Denver freshman attacker Quintin Hoch-Bullen led all scorers with three goals. The Pioneers led 38-22 in shot attempts and 15-6 in draw controls. But the Owls kept pace in ground balls and caused 11 turnovers to earn possession.
Temple earned its first victory against Denver in three matchups. The Owls opened Big East play against the Pioneers last season. They lost 14-6 before winning their next six games.
The Owls’ next conference game is on Saturday at noon against Cincinnati. It is their final home game before back-to-back road games.
“I think starting us off with Denver, who we lost to last year, and coming out with the win definitely set us on the right track to know how we need to keep practicing and showing up on game day,” Lambeth said.