Reaching the first-ever American Athletic Conference women’s lacrosse postseason tournament is a “minimum goal” for Temple University this season, coach Bonnie Rosen said.
If Temple places fourth in the conference — where The American’s preseason poll predicted it to finish — the Owls will meet that goal.
Six schools — Temple, the University of Florida, Vanderbilt University, Connecticut, Cincinnati, and East Carolina — gave The American the minimum six teams needed to form a women’s lacrosse conference this season. The 2019 season will be the first that The American sponsors the sport.
Every school in The American except ECU competed in the 10-team, Big East Conference last season.
The Owls’ strong nonconference schedule gives them a chance to earn one of the 13 at-large bids if they don’t win their conference, Rosen said. She hopes their experience will propel the Owls to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008, which was Rosen’s second season at Temple.
“It’s a really exciting year,” Rosen said. “We’re not young, we’re not hugely veteran, but our juniors all have experience as do our sophomores. So I really look at that as a group that’s ready to learn very quickly.”
In its nonconference schedule, Temple will face three teams — Princeton University, James Madison and Jacksonville University — that made the NCAA Tournament in 2018. James Madison University, which won the Division I championship last year, and Princeton were ranked in the top 20 of Inside Lacrosse’s final 2018 poll.
Rosen anticipates Temple’s junior class will guide the team through its nonconference schedule into postseason play.
Two members of the junior class, defender Kara Nakrasius and midfielder Maddie Gebert, are two of the three Owls named to The American’s preseason all-conference team.
Gebert led the team with 40 points in 2018. Nakrasius led the Owls with 64 draw controls and ranked second on the team in ground balls behind former defender Nicole Latgis, who graduated last spring.
Nakrasius is a team captain for the second consecutive year and one of Temple’s four captains this season. Senior midfielder Amber Lambeth, junior attacker and midfielder Olivia Thompson and senior goalkeeper Kelsea Hershey are Temple’s other three captains.
“Being able to lead the team and lead us to success was really exciting for me personally,” Lambeth said. “[I hope to] bring knowledge that I’ve [gained] over the past three years and being able to put that on the field and show people what’s the right thing to do and how to avoid mistakes.”
Though half of the Owls’ roster is comprised of underclassmen, the sophomore class is experienced because all seven saw game action last season, Rosen said. Two of them, midfielders Jackie Cerchio and Jen Rodzewich, combined for 25 goals as freshmen.
This year’s freshmen will see more playing time as they learn over the course of the season, Rosen said. They learned quickly in fall and spring practices, allowing the Owls to intensify practice because they did not have to allocate extended time to help them, Lambeth said.
Freshman midfielder Lauren Zinkl credits the freshmen’s quick adjustment to the sophomore class. With the sophomores guiding the freshmen, Rosen expects the Owls to grow quickly as the season progresses.
“We have a lot of different talent to try and figure out as everyone keeps growing, how to use them,” Rosen said. “As our younger players understand and learn the college game a little bit better, learn how to read the game a little bit better, they’re going to be able to use their skill sets to increase our level of play.”
The Owls begin their season against the University of Delaware on Feb. 8 at 3 p.m. at Howarth Field.