Failing to score a goal in its first four games, the women’s soccer team is combating the same problems it faced at the beginning of last season. But with a second-year coach and last year’s top scorers returning this season, the Owls hope to move up in the standings in the Atlantic Ten Conference.
The Owls return their top scoring forward and a duo of senior defenders to help anchor the defense, with freshman Tiffany Kusanich at goalkeeper. Kusanich replaces Jackie Mauro, who was 15th in the nation in saves with seven per game.
Kusanich is already battle-tested. In four games this season, the keeper is averaging 5.75 saves per game. In the Owls’ 1-0 loss to Seton Hall on Sept. 2, Kusanich tallied a season-high 10 saves. With Temple’s home opener tomorrow against Drexel, the Owls hope they can take some of the pressure off their rookie goalie.
“We need to come together as a unit in order to take some pressure off of Tiffany,” senior captain Trish Dalton said. “I don’t think it is going to take one person to step their game up, I think the whole team is going to need to come together in order for us to be successful.”
Finding that sense of team is something the Owls are dealing with in the early part of this season. They have not started the same unit in any of their first four contests, rotating nine freshmen with the returning starters.
“Once we find that collective team unit, I think we will be able to turn it around on the offensive side,” Dalton said.
Senior forwards Patricia Dalton, Stephanie Vietry and Samantha Vietry, as well as juniors Kelly Anne Lare and Erika Hekimian lead the offensive attack. Seniors Trish Dalton and Jaclyn Conn will provide the last line of defense in front of Kusanich.
After playing their first four games at Rutgers, Delaware, Seton Hall and Fairleigh Dickinson, the Owls open their home schedule tomorrow against the Dragons. The game will be played at Ambler Field. The Owls then will not see Ambler for three weeks as they play a five-game road stretch, marking the beginning of their A-10 schedule with games at Xavier and defending conference champion Dayton.
The Owls return home Oct. 7 with a game against new A-10 member Saint Louis. The team will close the regular season with six of its last nine games at home, a great way to make a push toward the postseason.
The Owls, picked dead last in a preseason coaches poll, hope to use their late-season home field advantage to exceed the opposing coaches’ predictions.
“It’s such a big advantage to have those games at home,” Dalton said. “When we have that home crowd, it really gets the team excited. To play all those games in front of a home crowd, and for it to be a conference game, it’s definitely an edge.”
Dalton also said the non-conference schedule helps to prepare the team mentally for the A-10 schedule.
“At Rutgers, with a couple thousand people in the stands, you could tell it affected some of the younger players,” Dalton said, referring to the season-opening 6-0 loss in New Brunswick. “Everyone has been getting a feel for things and I think that it’s all going to come together.”
With a combination of optimism and potential, the Owls are looking forward in the 2005 season. The groundwork for success was laid out last year. And this season, the team hopes to continue with their plans of entering the upper-echelon of the A-10.
Greg Otto can be reached at email@example.com.