The team lost its second-leading scorer and eight-year coach.
For most college athletes, it’s a simple reality that, eventually, they will no longer wear the colors of their university. For most, the cause will be the end of their four years of eligibility, but for junior forward Allicia Yurkovic of the women’s soccer team, she left the team on her own terms.
With 12 career goals and six assists, the team’s second-highest scorer for the past two seasons decided to forgo her senior season and her final year of an athletic scholarship to pursue a nursing degree, which she wouldn’t have been able to do had she stayed.
“I don’t want to be in school for seven years. I’d rather just get in and get out,” Yurkovic said. “Soccer is very important to me, but one more year of soccer isn’t more important than a couple more years of school.”
The team is also losing another program mainstay as coach David Jones announced his resignation on Nov. 16, citing the needs of his family, whom he saw little of while coaching the team.
“I have two young kids. My son just turned 8 – he played baseball and soccer this fall, and I was able to see two of his events,” Jones said. “My daughter swims and plays soccer, and I saw a total of one-and-a-half of her events this fall. My kids are only going to be young for a short amount of time, and with all the travel during the season from August until November, it’s all about the college team that you’re focused on. From then till February, it’s all about recruiting.”
“When you’re on the road all the time, the quality of life at home is not the best,” Jones added.
Yurkovic wouldn’t have been able to meet the demands of the two-year program by continuing the sport, so in leaving the team now, she will only have to attend school for one more year, but that year will be as a regular student.
“It’s going to be really different, because all I’ve known is doing sports and being with the team and everything, so it’s going to be hard next year,” Yurkovic said.
It will be a change in lifestyle for Yurkovic as she transitions from student athlete to regular student, where some benefits – such as free books, the ability to choose classes early and the academic support provided for athletes – will not be available.
“It’s very convenient having people do a lot of things for you,” Yurkovic said. “I don’t ever have to fight in lines for books. In the first week of school, they would just be there for me, and that would be really nice.”
“I came in with 20 built-in friends, and now I’m basically starting college over again, having to make friends,” she added.
For the former coach, it was no surprise that Yurkovic would leave at the end of the fall season. Jones said he knew it was likely to happen last spring.
“It was hard because she had to make a tough decision, but ultimately I think it shows why most of these young ladies are really here at Temple. They’re here to get an education,” Jones said. “I knew if it came down to soccer or nursing, she would pick nursing only because ultimately, that’s what she wants to do.”
For player and coach, both tried to figure out why their respective tenures didn’t become more successful than they would have liked. In Jones’ eight-year tenure, he posted a 38-95-14 record. Yurkovic cited the level of competition in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
“We seem to succeed every year in non-conference play, and then we get to conference play, and it all goes downhill,” Yurkovic said. “A lot of games were 2-1, 1-0 – we did have a few blowouts. Conference play is a lot harder than a lot of the teams you face in non-conference, and it’s a good competitive conference to be in.”
Jones also cited A-10 play, but other factors existed, as well. Until three years ago, when Jones received his first full-time assistant, Jones managed every aspect of the team by himself.
He would have liked to expand his recruiting footprint, he said.
“Looking back, we took a route where we tried to recruit within two hours of Temple,” Jones said. “If I had to do it again, I would try to bring in more international students or players from the West Coast.”
Yurkovic and her sister, Kate, a sophomore midfielder on the team, both stood by their coach as the team’s losses mounted, but there may have been some dissent in the ranks.
“I know that kind of a lot of people on the team, and other people, have said that [coach Jones needed to resign] for a while because we haven’t been having a winning record and everything,” Yurkovic said. “But I don’t think this should be made into a huge spectacle because he is a good guy.”
“It’s really disappointing,” Kate Yurkovic added. “He put the best people out there, and he couldn’t go out there and score goals and make saves. He put the best 11 people out there.It was up to us, and we didn’t do it.”
Jones took a more fitness-oriented approach to run the team two years ago. Some players didn’t respond well to the new year-round fitness program, he said, which may have been a source of some negativity.
“You’re never going to please everybody, and that’s whether you coach at the youth, high school or college level. So when you step up the play and make the commitment more difficult, some kids will balk under pressure,” Jones said. “Whenever you do something like that, it’s not going to work for everybody – you’re making people go where they don’t want to go.”
Jones said he does not hold any ill will toward Temple and, for now, looks to take at least a year off before he pursues coaching again, whether at the college level or elsewhere.
“I’m proud of the time I’ve spent here and the relationships that I’ve built, and I get kids that call me all the time when people heard that I was leaving. It’s great to hear from people that have played here in the past and thanking you for the commitment you put out,” Jones said. “I’m always going to look back with fond memories, and at the end of the day, it’s about the people you met and the relationships that you built.”
For the Yurkovic sisters, the soccer tandem that has stayed together for 18 years will finally go its separate ways. Allicia Yurkovic still plans to work out with the team and even travel to some games.
“I think [playing together made] us a lot closer with each other, and you’ll always have that to share later in life and say that you’ve accomplished all these things with your sister,” Kate Yurkovic said. “Not a lot of people get to do that. Not many people can say that their best friend has been there with them the whole time.”
Brian Dzenis can be reached at email@example.com.