The Owls’ final Big East Conference season got off to a promising start. They upset nationally ranked University of Denver, then they beat Cincinnati in double overtime.
But in their past three games, the Owls have begun to struggle. They have been outscored 47-14 in three losses to Marquette University, the University of Florida and Connecticut.
The losing streak has dropped Temple (7-6, 2-3 Big East) to a tie for sixth place in the 10-team Big East with four conference games remaining, starting with Saturday’s matchup against Butler University (1-12, 0-5 Big East) in Indiana.
Coach Bonnie Rosen believes deficiencies in offensive production, draw controls and defense have contributed to the losing streak.
“We’re getting hit on three fronts right now,” Rosen said. “I think our defense is learning faster than our offense in a game, so we’re still not scoring enough goals.”
In each of the three losses, the Owls allowed multiple goals in the first 10 minutes and had to climb out of a deep hole. Marquette started its 16-4 win on March 31 in Milwaukee on a 4-0 run.
Florida, the No. 6 team in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll, scored five goals in the first 10 minutes of its 15-3 win last Wednesday.
UConn started Saturday’s game on a 9-0 run on the way to a 16-7 win at Howarth Field.
During the losing streak, the Owls haven’t totaled 15 or more shots on goal in any game, while the opponents each peppered more than 20 shots on cage. Temple has also turned the ball over at a high rate. It had 18 turnovers at Marquette and 23 against both Florida and Connecticut.
“It’s taking our defense too many possessions to understand what they’re playing against, and then it’s taking our offense too many possessions to figure out how they’re going to score,” Rosen said. “And the combination is leading to games opening up too fast on us.”
Following the 16-4 loss to Marquette, Rosen said her team was simply outplayed.
“Very clearly, we need to increase the strength of our skillset, finishing under pressure, under physicality and finishing offensively,” Rosen said after the game.
In Saturday’s game against UConn, the two teams played physically, combining for seven yellow cards.
“I would expect to see it for the rest of the season,” senior attacker and co-captain Kira Gensler said. “Teams are going to be able to see how we handle physicality, and we need to understand that it’s not going to let up. If anything, it’s going to come harder.”
“Every game, and more importantly every possession, matters” for Temple’s young team, Rosen said.
Sophomore goalkeeper Maryn Lowell has started every game. Only sophomore midfielder Maddie Gebert has more than 20 goals so far. Sophomore attacker and midfielder Olivia Thompson is the second-leading scorer with 17 goals and five assists. Sophomore defender and co-captain Kara Nakrasius leads the team in draw controls with 48.
There are four games left on the Owls’ regular-season schedule. Three of the four teams — Vanderbilt University, Villanova University and Georgetown University — are ranked in the top 50 in Division I in goals per game.
One of the Owls’ remaining conference games is against a team that holds playoff position in the top four of the standings.
Temple will play third-place Georgetown, which is No. 23 in the IWLCA poll, to close the regular season on April 28 at Howarth Field.
“I think raising the level of competition, the level of accountability, is going to be huge going into the next four games that we have left,” Gensler said.
Temple has six days between the UConn game and the Butler game. It only had three days between the Marquette and Florida games and two days from its matchup with the Gators to the game against UConn.
“Since we’ve been traveling so much lately, it will be good to have five full practices before our next game,” junior midfielder Amber Lambeth said. “We’ll work hard this week, and hopefully we can have a good end of the season.”