Exceeding expectations with an inexperienced roster is nothing new for the Owls.
They were picked to finish sixth in the Big East Conference preseason poll in 2016. They finished with a 13-6 record before the season ended in a loss to the University of Florida in the Big East championship game. Despite losing their starting goalkeeper to graduation and being predicted to miss the postseason, the Owls had another Big East tournament matchup with the Gators and won 13 games in 2017.
Temple now finds itself in a similar situation, in need of inexperienced talent to step up. Seven seniors, who combined to score 64.8 percent of the team’s goals, graduated after last season.
Unlike the past two seasons, Temple is predicted to qualify for the Big East tournament by finishing fourth in the league.
“One of the things we really pride ourselves in this program is developing everyone and figuring out where our strengths are,” coach Bonnie Rosen said. “We’ve been really proud that pretty much every year we’ve had seniors that were strong contributors, and now we’re back at the start of the season where we’re trying to find our team identity.”
Temple will start its season on Saturday against Rutgers University. The Owls who were on the squad a year ago will be familiar with the majority of the opponents they’ll face in 2018. The out-of-conference season begins with the same five teams they faced to start 2017, including a nationally ranked Princeton University squad.
The Owls’ departed senior group includes former midfielder Morgan Glassford, who won 73 draws last season. That mark is the second-highest single-season total in program history only behind Glassford’s junior season when she won 78 draws.
Glassford played in all but one game during her four seasons with the lacrosse team before playing soccer in Fall 2017. She finished her lacrosse career with 77 goals and 174 draw controls, which is the most in program history. Without Glassford, the Owls plan to use a team effort to win draws, Rosen said.
In addition to leading Temple in draw controls, Glassford scored 26 goals in 2017 to rank third on the team. The top four goal scorers last season were all seniors.
The Owls will look to the likes of junior midfielder Amber Lambeth and senior attacker Nicole Barretta, who each scored 21 goals last season, to supplement their scoring. Barretta played in all 18 games last season but didn’t make any starts.
“This year, I definitely have an even bigger role on the team,” Barretta said. “My job is to not only make sure that I’m ready for the season, but also to make sure other younger girls on the team are prepared to step into some bigger roles this season.”
Sophomore midfielders Maddie Gebert and Kimmy Weinstock started a combined 16 games as freshmen. Defender Kara Nakrasius started all 18 games last season and is now a captain as a sophomore.
The Owls’ starting goalkeeper will be sophomore Maryn Lowell. She had a 10-4 record in her starts and ranked seventh in the Big East in save percentage. Her goals-against average ranked 48th out of 97 qualified goalkeepers in Division I.
“Honestly, as a freshman, I didn’t know much of what to expect at the college level,” Lowell said. “I’ve been working a lot on keeping my feet set, blocking low balls and being a better communicator on the field.”
As players fill new roles, Rosen has preached the message of anticipating mistakes and building on them. Rosen expects her team to deal with managing nerves and avoiding mental lapses this season.
“The key is really going to be to expect that we are not going to be perfect,” Rosen said. “We must stay really focused on being able to work hard, communicate and be both mentally and physically tougher than our opponents.”
2018 will be the Owls’ last year in the Big East before the American Athletic Conference adds lacrosse in 2019.
The 26-team NCAA tournament field has 13 automatic qualifiers from winning conference tournaments and 13 at-large teams. Temple hasn’t qualified since Rosen’s second season as coach in 2008. The Owls lost, 20-7, to the University of Maryland in the first round.
Temple will have a chance for quality wins as it tries to return to the NCAA tournament. In addition to facing Princeton, Temple will face two other teams ranked in the Jan. 30 Inside Lacrosse Poll. The Owls face No. 17 James Madison University on March 2 and Big East rival No. 5 Florida on April 4.
“We’re always trying to make our mark nationally,” Rosen said. “We try to give ourselves a chance at both an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and a qualifying bid through winning the conference tournament.”