The Owls showed flashes throughout the 2013 season, but by year’s end, it was apparent this program is still a work in progress.
“I’m proud of the girls for the progress we made as a program,” coach Seamus O’Connor said. “We got better regionally and we still have work to do nationally.”
This season, Temple struggled with superior talent in the American Athletic Conference, but the team still hopes its underclassmen can learn from the experience and continue to develop into a conference contender.
“I think it was an eye opener,” sophomore defender Erin Lafferty said. “We knew we were going to have to come into this conference and work our butt off. We have to continue working hard, getting the players, developing the team, because we are a young team with a new coach.”
In O’Connor’s first year at the helm, Temple earned a record of 6-12-1. During the non-conference schedule, Temple began with four consecutive shutout victories. Momentum carried through the non-conference schedule, as Temple notched a 5-4-1 non-conference record, the program’s best record through the first nine games of any season in more than a decade.
Once Temple was introduced to its conference opponents, wins became a distant memory. After a shutout victory in their conference opener against Houston, the Owls lost eight consecutive regular season match-ups.
Though it earned one win in the conference, Temple advanced to The American postseason tournament, as every team does. The Owls were shut out by Southern Methodist 3-0, ending their season on a nine-game losing streak.
“Being that it was new competition, people we’ve never seen before, I think we realize what we’re up against,” sophomore defender Kaylee Harner said. “I think we realize that we have it in us, we just need to begin to play and compete.”
Despite the losses, Temple’s large group of underclassmen led the team in several statistical categories. Of the 17 goals scored this season, 14 of Temple’s point scoring came from the freshman or sophomore class.
“Those freshmen and sophomores are fantastic,” O’Connor said. “The later the season went on, the freshmen got better and better.”
“The strength of our team now has more experience,” O’Connor added. “They learned in the hardest way possible because they got punished for every mistake that they made in the conference.”
Last year’s Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie team members, sophomores Shauni Kerkhoff and Erin Lafferty, continued to lead the Owls in 2013.
Kerkhoff ended the season with 95 total saves and seven shutouts, leading the conference in both categories. Kerkhoff came one shutout shy of tying the program record for most shutouts in a season and most shutouts in a career.
Lafferty started in all 19 games as one of the main defenders, but she was also tied for the team lead in points, netting three goals and an assist.
“I think Erin showed the consistency every single game,” O’Connor said. “[Lafferty] marked whoever was the best forward on the other team. Nobody could score on her. I really hope Erin gets some recognition within the conference.”
Sophomore defender Taylor Trusky and sophomore midfielder Kelly Farrell both transferred to Temple before the season began and proved to be important parts of the Owls’ lineup. Farrell registered two goals and three assists this season, and Trusky started all 19 games as one of the Owls’ key defensive players.
“I hope we get two more this year,” O’Connor said. “Taylor was really outstanding on defense. She just got better as the year went on. I think she’s one of the girls who improved the most. Kelly did a good job, and hopefully in her time at Temple, she’ll become the goal person we need. The two of them are huge additions to the program.”
Freshman midfielders Ingrid Mello, Elaine Byerley, Jillian DiBlasi and Clara Guenter accounted for a combined seven goals.
Senior forward Jackie Krostek, defender Karly O’Toole and midfielder Amanda Ward have come to the end of their careers, but O’Connor and the young roster have now completed their first season together. The Owls will take positives from this season, but O’Connor knows this season’s results mean the team will need to make major improvements.
“I think we’re lucky that we have a lot of young people coming back, continuing to grow, feel comfortable,” Harner said. “I think we just need to keep working hard, doing the little things that add up to success.”
“There’s definitely a lot of stuff I could’ve done better,” O’Connor said. “There’s a lot of stuff I’ll do differently next year. Being in the first year, learning as we go, I would definitely say there’s a lot of room for improvement. One of the first people I will be asking improve next year is myself. From there, I’ll ask from the players as well.”
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BErick1123.