When the Owls (7-11, 3-4 Big East Conference) began play in Lynchburg, Virginia on Friday, they knew they had already clinched a berth in the Big East tournament since Old Dominion University lost to Providence College earlier that afternoon. Head-to-head tiebreakers against conference rivals Old Dominion and Quinnipiac University earned the Owls the fourth seed in the tournament.
Even though the team had already clinched a playoff spot, falling to conference rival Liberty University by seven goals wasn’t the way coach Marybeth Freeman and the team wanted to finish conference play one week before the Owls kick off the Big East tournament at Howarth Field.
After winning four consecutive contests from Sept. 25 to Oct. 7, Temple lost three of its last four games before its home win against Lafayette College on Sunday. The team’s losing stretch included a 1-2 record in Big East matchups against Villanova, Quinnipiac and Liberty. In the four-game stretch, the team averaged 1.25 goals per game. They were shut out in two of those games.
The coaching staff and players understand that they must improve their execution if the team is to be successful in bringing a Big East championship to North Broad Street.
“We had a really poor defensive game [against Liberty],” Freeman said. “That really lit the fire under our players to make that a priority.”
The team allowed 3.75 goals per game in the four games before Sunday’s win. Temple allowed one goal per game in four contests from Sept. 25 to Oct. 7.
The players will have little time to find their way out of their recent slump before the Owls host the Big East tournament. The Owls finished the season 6-5 in front of their home fans, and have won five in a row at the complex just off Broad Street.
As the final seed in the tournament, the Owls will take on top-seeded Connecticut (18-1, 7-0), who is ranked fifth in the Oct. 25 Ratings Percentage Index. The two teams will play on Friday at 1 p.m. The Huskies outshot the Owls 28-2 in their 6-0 home win on Sept. 23.
The other conference semifinal will feature Providence (13-5, 5-2) and Liberty (7-9, 5-2). The Owls went 0-3 against the tournament field in regular season play, losing by an aggregate score of 16-2.
In what will be the final games for the Owls’ four seniors, backs Michelle Walsh and Ali Meszaros, forward Katie Foran and midfielder Paige Gross will play an integral role in helping the team move past its slump in the week leading up to the team’s first playoff match against Connecticut.
“We know that [Connecticut] is a good team, but I think we can beat anyone,” Foran said.
Varun Sivakumar can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @VarunSivakumar.