Amber Youtz will never forget the moment she was told that she could play Division I field hockey.
She realized she had a shot at making a D-I roster when her club coach pulled her aside one day several years ago. Youtz remembers the conversation well.
“You have the chance to do something great here – make an impact on Division I team,” Youtz recalled the coach telling her.
“From that moment on, it was all about pushing myself to become the best I could,” Youtz said.
Now, the forward is in her senior year at Temple. Last weekend, she donned her Owls jersey for her last game at Geasey Field on Main Campus. Since joining the team as a freshman from Dauphin, Pennsylvania, Youtz has grown into one of the program’s – and the nation’s – top offensive players.
The four goals she scored in her rookie campaign shot up to 22 during her sophomore year, and has improved to 26 in her final season. She scored a team-leading 16 goals in her junior year, but missed four games with a broken arm.
Her career totals stand at 68 goals, 27 assists and 163 points. She tied Monica Mills (1981-84) for third all-time in the program’s goal-scoring record books, and needs one more point to tie Mills for third all-time in points.
And as far as the season itself goes, Youtz’ career-high 26 goals leads the nation, and her 1.37 goals per game average is the NCAA’s third best, while her 3.16 points per game average is second.
Youtz has received national recognition for her accomplishments, receiving a handful of individual accolades throughout the season – the most recent being a selection to the NFHCA D-I Senior Game. But Youtz’ individual performance hasn’t kept her from losing focus.
“It does add a little bit more pressure, seeing some of the stuff that says you need one more goal and you need this,” Youtz said. “But I think it’s about taking down that pressure and knowing what you’re there for, what you’re playing for and that it is a team sport.”
Youtz isn’t alone, however, going along with goalkeeper Lizzy Millen and midfielder Nicole Kroener, who combine as one of the best senior classes in the team’s history. They all finished up the regular season schedule with a tough home loss to UConn. The Owls led the Huskies for most of the game, before giving up two goals in the final minutes.
Youtz, Millen and Kroener aren’t done yet though. They will compete this weekend in the Big East tournament, as the third seed, against No. 17 Old Dominion.
After a 2013 run that saw her finish with a 14-6 record, and a 76.6 save percentage, Millen followed up with a 2014 season that, to this point, has her posting a 78.7 save percentage that is sixth in Division I, and a 1.54 goals against average that ranks 21st.
Kroener led the Owls with 10 assists last season, and is second on the team this year with nine. The Morgantown, Pennsylvania native has started in every game since she arrived at Temple in 2011, logging a majority of minutes per game while becoming a staple of Temple’s midfield and corner unit. Her 29 career assists to this point are tied for fifth all-time in program history.
The senior class has seen the program switch from the Atlantic 10 Conference to the Big East Conference, and turn into a nationally-ranked program in its first two seasons as a Big East member.
“I haven’t really thought about it or dwelled on it, but it’s an amazing feeling,” Kroener said. “The program has changed tremendously since Amber and I came in as freshmen, and [associate coach Kelly Driscoll] joined the coaching staff.”
“To say I was a part of that makes me super proud to be a part of this program,” Kroener added, “and hopefully inspire my teammates now to keep that going, don’t settle for mediocrity and keep proving people wrong.”
Nick Tricomecan be reached at email@example.com and on twitter @itssnick215