Temple looks to midfielders for more offensive ‘swagger’

The Owls are improving the offensive skill set of its four midfielders before the season start on Feb. 7.

Senior defender Arryana Daniels kicks the ball during the Owls' game against Lehigh University at the Temple Sports Complex on Sept. 5, 2019. | NEIL GOLDENTHAL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When Nick Bochette became the team’s head coach, he decided that if the team wanted to compete for a championship this year, it would need more “swagger” and aggression from its midfielders to keep the ball on the opposing half of the field.

“It’s not easy to get several midfielders into attack unless we clearly have possession, and we have some intent in our possession,” Bochette said. “So our goal is to be able to get two or three of them into attack at any given time.”

The team is adding a midfielder to its scheme and delegating two midfielders to more offensive roles in an attempt to create better scoring opportunities, part of a series of changes Bochette is making on the offensive and defensive side of the ball to elevate the team’s performance this year.

The Owls’ system from last season, which used three midfielders focused on defense, didn’t provide the Owls with enough opportunities to attack the opponent’s goal. 

Last year, Temple University women’s soccer relied on stout defense from its midfielders to outlast their opponents’ offense and primarily used less than four midfielders at the same time. 

Under Bochette’s new system, senior captains Julia Dolan and Arryana Daniels play the center midfielders spot and stay on the field for most of the game.

“Kinda no matter what we do, we’re gonna have that central aspect of Julia and Arryana,” Bochette said. “If it’s not a constant, it’ll be a pretty common theme.”

Daniels played defense in prior years and was one of the team’s two starting center backs last year before transitioning to center midfield this season. 

Usually, defenders have trouble transitioning to midfield due to the constant movement, but Daniels is using some of her defensive tendencies at her new spot. 

Daniels’ positional switch looks like a “seamless” one to her teammates, Dolan said. 

“Coming from center back, she got to see the whole field, so I think moving to midfield is super helpful for both our attack and defense,” Dolan added. “She’s a big communicator, too, so I think it’s going to be great having her in the midfield.”

Junior Hailey Gutowski will play one of the wings of the midfield, with either senior Emma Wilkins or freshman Lexy Endres occupying the other wing, Bochette said. 

Wilkins, who played midfield as a freshman but moved to forward her sophomore and junior years, led the team in scoring during 2018 while Gutokski led the team in 2019. In their new positions, both can join the downfield attack and add more pressure on opposing defenses due to their scoring prowess. 

“Those are two young women who have proven they can score goals,” Bochette said. “Most of the time when we’re going to use them in the midfield, it’s going to be in an advanced position, but we want to get them in front of goal as well.” 

Endres shares Gutowski and Wilkins’ scoring ability and is comfortable both in the middle of the field and on the width. Endres could be one of three freshmen starting in the season opener on Feb. 7 along with defenders Róisín McGovern and Brooke Kane. 

Dolan and the team’s upperclassmen hold Endres to the same standard as the older, more experienced players on the team because she performed well during preseason camp, Dolan said. 

“She’s just really shown how technically sound she is, how fit she is,” she added. “She just is a really good player all around. She’s really gonna make an impact.”

Gutowski believes the offense will work with the two wing midfielders pushing forward with the attack, along with either Dolan or Daniels helping to support crosses and cut back passes, she said. 

“It kinda depends on the situation with who it’ll be specifically, but right now Lexy is usually playing the other wing, and when she’s serving the ball in then I’m usually in with the forwards,” Gutowski added. “Then one other center mid will be in with us.”

The Owls’ first game of the season is on Feb. 7 on the road against Saint Joe’s as they look to improve on their 5-9-5 record from last season. 

With Dolan and Daniels’ experience, as well as Gutowski, Wilkins and Endres’ strength and speed, this year’s team could be Temple’s most experienced position group, Bochette said. 

“We’re working hard to make sure everyone understands where they’re supposed to be relative to their teammates in given situations that will help them be able to find spaces to keep possession,” he added. 

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