After an extended offseason for Temple University women’s soccer following their postponed season, the team is playing in intrasquad scrimmages to prepare for their season opener on Feb. 7.
Head coach Nick Bochette is spending the extra practice time focusing on defense because Temple gave up more than a goal a game on average last season, and he’s seen “significant progress” from the defensive core so far, he said.
“Where we’re at right now is light years ahead of where we were in the fall,” Bochette added. “Certainly still a long way to go. But we’re happy. We’re satisfied.”
The team is installing a scheme that uses four defenders at once, with seniors Marissa DiGenova, Djavon Dupree and freshman Róisín McGovern occupying three of the starting spots with the final one up for grabs. DiGenova will play on the right wing while Dupree and McGovern will be the two center backs, leaving the left wing spot up for competition, Bochette said.
Playing with four defenders on the backline will give Temple more options to stop their opponents from creating quality offensive opportunities.
McGovern will play the right center back position so she can provide outlet passes to DiGenova, who has the range to join the offense upfield, which will help generate a fast break for the offense.
“I have a really strong attacking mentality,” DiGenova said. “Defending is always first, but I want to go up there. I want to score, I want to cross it in and get assists. Bochette even encouraged me to do it more.”
Former defender Emily Keitel anchored Temple’s defense last year, but she graduated last spring, leaving a spot for grabs that Bochette is filling with a similar player like McGovern, he said.
“Keitel was a stalwart,” Bochette added. “She was big, powerful and strong. She was a pillar back there. McGovern also has that presence. She’s six feet, one inch and a solid, big, strong athlete. She looks the part. She’s better on the ball than Emily was.”
Dupree played on the left wing of the defense last year and transitioned to center back in the fall to also help fill the void left by Keitel. Practicing with McGovern and getting help from the coaching staff made the adjustment easier for her, Dupree said.
“It was difficult at first because I always hated playing center back because I had a habit of wanting to run,” Dupree said. “Center back requires a lot more composure and thinking things through, and also leading the back line and telling them where to shift, where to drop.”
Freshman Brooke Kane, who committed to Temple in April 2020 from Nazareth Academy High School in Torresdale, is “in the conversation” for the starting left wing position, Bochette said.
Bochette and his staff didn’t know much about Kane’s playing style because she was recruited by the previous coaching staff.
“She’s been really fit, really well prepared and really professional in her approach,” Bochette said. “She’s just embodying all the things that you need to be at a high level and an elite player.”
Dupree believes sophomore Teri Jackson has stood out as someone who could play left wing since she transferred from Syracuse University, Dupree said. Jackson is listed as a forward but transitioned to defense in the fall.
“I definitely think it’s between Brooke and Teri,” Dupree said. “They’ll probably be on and off. I don’t think it’ll be set in stone unless anyone has a crazy performance.”
Getting more comfortable with each other’s playing style is a focal point as the Owls prepare for the start of their schedule, Bochette said.
“We need to have a solid starting 11 girls and cohesively work together because we haven’t really done that yet,” DiGenova said.