Temple looking to turn things around in conference play

In their highly anticipated out-of-conference schedule, mistakes and miscues have hindered the Owls, resulting in a 5-5 start to the season.

Midfielder Belle Mastropietro must be a key piece of Temple's offense for a mid-season turnaround. | JOSH CRELLIN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Temple Lacrosse (5-5, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) completed its non-conference schedule on March 18. For a team that has NCAA tournament aspirations after coming up slightly short last season, it’s fair to say that the results were underwhelming.

The Owls finished their nine non-conference games with a 5-4 record, including losses to No. 23 Ohio State, No. 17 Princeton and No. 16 Yale. The loss that stands out the most is an 11-10 overtime loss to UMBC, a game that Temple led by three at halftime.

“I would like us to have executed things at a little bit of a higher level consistently,” said Temple head coach Bonnie Rosen. “We played against different strengths of opponents, we’ve been traveling, so we’re getting better. It was very disappointing to not finish out that UMBC game. I can say that for sure.”

For the past two seasons, Temple has struggled to defeat top-25 opponents both in and out of conference play. 

After their 10-8 loss to No. 5 James Madison (10-1, 2-0 AAC) in their conference opener, the Owls fell to 0-8 against ranked opponents during the last two years.

While the results weren’t what the Owls hoped for in non-conference play, they still believe that their schedule so far has established their level of competitiveness for the rest of the season.

“I think it did what we needed it to do,” Rosen said. “We’ve had a lot of opportunities to see different types of playstyles. We would have liked to compete in more moments to make those tighter games.” 

As conference play continues, Temple’s schedule will not get any easier. The AAC has been one of the best lacrosse conferences in the nation in recent years, with two top-25 teams, No. 8 Florida (7-3, 1-1 AAC) and No. 5 James Madison.

The Owls think if they can fix the small details, like taking care of the ball and maintaining a positive attitude when things go wrong, they will change their fortunes and be equipped to take on any team in the conference.

“I think coming up it’s just working on and fixing the little things,” said midfielder Camryn Zavacky. “Fixing the simple passes, making sure we’re not having a lot of turnovers, supporting each other going into ground balls, and just really maintaining a positive mindset.”

The team currently finds themselves amid a three-game losing streak and sit in sixth place in the early part of their conference schedule. Their inability to create offense from behind the goal has contributed to their lower than expected standing.

In both their losses to UMBC and James Madison, the Owls’ offense was forced to run at the top of the zone, rather than at the ‘X’ position behind the net. This allowed the Owls to use backdoor cutters and run their offense through their best playmaker, attacker Mackenzie Roth, who leads the Owls with 13 assists. 

“That’s a credit to Mackenzie that people recognize that so much of our offensive mentality runs through her,” Rosen said. “She’ll keep learning how to deal with that pressure. At the same time, we’re really trying to build up the balance of our offense.” 

While the season may not have started as expected, the Owls know that competition in the AAC is going to be a battle, but there is still plenty of time to get back on track.

The Owls have learned from their mistakes at this point, translating skills from practices to the game field will be key for a midseason turnaround.

“The biggest thing is just to continue to play our game,” said midfielder Belle Mastropietro. “We’ve worked really hard on a lot of the small things in practice, so we just need to make sure that we keep growing and learning from our mistakes, and take those things we learned and keep moving forward.” 

Temple will look to climb up the conference standings when they take on Cincinnati (8-4, 1-1 AAC) on Saturday at noon.

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