When sophomore goalie Jordan Nash walked around campus last year wearing her Temple women’s soccer gear, she often heard the same question.
“They see me wear my soccer gear and they’re like, ‘Where do you play?’” Nash said. “‘I didn’t know we had a soccer team before,’ because we [didn’t] play on campus.”
In a close 2-1 loss to Drexel on Friday night, the women’s soccer team hosted the first athletic competition held at the brand new Temple Sports Complex in front of 641 spectators.
The new facility, located at the site of the former William Penn High School three blocks south of Morgan Hall, is much closer than the Owls’ former home at the Ambler Sports Complex about 15 miles from campus.
“Now that we’re here, we can say, ‘Oh, we’re down the street,’” Nash said. “And it’s easier to get here than a thirty minute ride to Ambler.”
The new facility is already having positive impact on team morale and recruiting, as well as drawing larger crowds to home games.
“We have so much more time to where we can practice and play instead of driving back and forth to Ambler,” said senior starting midfielder Elaine Byerley, who recorded an assist in the home opener and is one of the team’s four returning starters
“It’s just made everything so much more convenient.”
Despite a tough loss, the team and coach Seamus O’Connor are excited about the advantages afforded by the new facility.
“It’s improved the quality of life for the young ladies,” O’Connor said. “The team building has been great, they’re really close as a team … I think [the new complex] has been a huge part of it.”
The Owls played at the Ambler Sports Complex for 13 seasons, starting with the 2004 season. The men’s soccer team also made the move from Ambler to the Temple Sports Complex this year.
Both squads will share the new facility with the field hockey and lacrosse teams.
“We get to mingle with field hockey and lacrosse,” Byerley said, noting that the new facility has improved the team’s relationships with other members of Temple’s athletic community. “It’s great because all the other sports on campus can really come and see our games.”
The bleachers were flooded with Temple fans on opening night as supporters gathered at the new facility despite the fact that most students have not yet moved in on campus.
The 641 attendance total dwarfed the team’s average attendance of 183 last season as well as last season’s peak attendance of 430 against Lehigh University.
“Once the students get in it’s going to get bigger and bigger, and that’s something that these girls really enjoy,” O’Connor said.
The new sports complex has also impacted recruiting dramatically, slightly altering how the coaching staff evaluates prospects.
Coach O’Connor gave defender KJ Waghorne and midfielder Morgan Morocco, two speedy freshman who played fourteen minutes apiece in the opener, as examples of how the coaching has staff has adjusted recruiting to utilize the switch from Ambler’s grass field to Temple Sports Complex’s larger turf field.
“We knew two years ago this field was coming, we knew how big it was going to be, we knew the surface was turf, so we changed how we recruited from a more possession player to a quicker player,” O’Connor said.
Temple Sports Complex will be a strong selling point to future prospects as well, not only because of its tactical advantages but also its beautiful scenery and placement in the heart of Philadelphia.
“A lot of people are going to want to come here just for the field … just to be in the city and having the [Philadelphia] skyline in the background,” junior forward Gabriella Mckeown said.
Ben Blaustein can be reached at email@example.com