As Temple Women’s Lacrosse left the field at Johnson Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina, on May 5, several players held their heads down. The Owls had just lost an 11-10 thriller to Vanderbilt University in the semi-finals of the American Athletic Conference tournament after finishing the regular season as the second-best team in the conference.
The last two seasons, characterized by a high-powered offense, marked a step in the right direction for the Owls. While they failed to return to the NCAA tournament in the 2021 and 2022 seasons after qualifying in 2020, the team hopes to surpass last year’s finish and resume winning games against the nation’s top teams by going into games expecting to win regardless of the opponent.
“What has happened the past two seasons to this program has created a shift in the understanding of what we can accomplish,” said head coach Bonnie Rosen. “The biggest thing, first and foremost, that we are carrying over is the expectation of competing with the best and it not being a surprise to us.”
Last season, the Owls finished with a regular season record of 11-6 and retained some of the top talent in the AAC, including senior midfielder Belle Mastropietro, who led the conference in points per game last year with four.
Mastropietro has established herself as one of the best players in the AAC by earning the Conference Midfielder of the Year award last season and leading the Owls in points with 68. She has also been a key leader on the field at Temple, serving as a vocal presence and setting an example for her teammates.
“Coming into this season I definitely just want to work on being as consistent as last season, and continue to build off of last year,” Mastropietro said.
One of the Owls’ strengths is their offensive power. They outscored their opponents 219-188 last season, with Mastropietro netting 44 goals. Additionally, Temple scored 10 or more goals in 13 of their 17 games.
Another key returning player for the Owls’ offense is senior attacker Mackenzie Roth, who led the AAC in assists per game last season with 2.12.
Roth is hoping to continue her success this year by staying active with her stick in the offseason, she said.
“My main thing is just playing wall ball and having a stick in my hand and making sure that I am moving,” Roth said. “Doing anything really I can think of whether it is dodging on nobody or putting some cones out.”
While the Owls hope to finish the season at the top of the conference, the team has even higher aspirations of becoming nationally recognized by reentering the top 25 this year, Rosen said.
To gain national attention, the Owls will need to secure wins against their out-of-conference opponents, something Temple struggled with at times last year against opponents like the University of Delaware and Princeton University.
“I think that we have a lot of opportunities to put ourselves on the national landscape and hit the different regions,” Rosen said. “The schedule allows it so that if we win we have a great opportunity to be recognized nationally.”
The Owls got a taste of national recognition when they were ranked 22nd at the beginning of last season, before eventually falling out of their spot after multiple close defeats.
The Owls’ lack of identity has held them back during the past two seasons and if the team hopes to achieve their goals for the 2023 season, they will have to discover what type of offense they want to play, Roth said.
Last season, the Owls ran a 4-3-4 with four attackers, three midfielders and four defenders. After Lauren Zinkl and Abaigeal Ryan, two of their four starting attackers last season, graduated, Temple will turn to new faces to improve on the attacking front.
The Owls have experimented with different offensive styles this fall season to try and find their play style heading into the spring season.
“The biggest challenge will be figuring out what kind of team that we want to be,” Roth said. “Figuring out what our identity is and playing to the best of our ability based on that.”
The Owls know they can’t let a couple bumps in the road knock them down, Mastropietro said.
“The biggest thing for me is even if we lose a game or two, just making sure that we are able to learn from those games and move forward,” Mastropietro said. “Just not let those one or two losses discourage us at all.”