Owls Burned by #9 Liberty

Written By: Morgan Killian-Moseley

Photo Courtesy Of: OwlSports.com

The Owls’ field hockey team faced their toughest test of the season on Friday as they took on the #9 ranked and Big East-leading, Liberty Flames. Despite an early flurry, Liberty’s high-powered offense proved to be simply too hot to handle as the Flames torched Temple 6-1.

Liberty forward Daniella Rhodes opened the scoring with 10:23 left in the first quarter. Temple’s best offensive rush yielded a penalty stroke 35 seconds later, as confirmed by replay. Owls’ back-liner McKenna Burkhardt was able to convert on that penalty stroke to tie the game at one-all. But it was all Liberty after that, as the Flames finished with five unanswered, including two more by Rhodes to give her a hat trick. Lizzie Hamlett added two goals of her own, and Bethany Dykema chipped in a tally as well.  Liberty earned 7 penalty corners in the game, scoring off of 3 of them. In contrast, Temple could only earn one penalty corner.

The Owls, fighting off the back foot for nearly the entire game, exhibited a lack of execution in the passing game, committing quite a few turnovers in the middle of the field.

Temple goalie Megan Ragusa did manage two saves in the losing effort but gave up all six Liberty goals, including two in the last 90 seconds of the third quarter. Ragusa was pulled in favor of Molly Frey to start the fourth.  Meanwhile Liberty’s goalie, Azul Iritxity Irigoyen, only needed to make one save, as Temple simply couldn’t get many scoring chances due to Liberty’s outstanding defense. With the Flames having the game well in hand, the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Week was given the last 7:39 off; as Alyssa Maryanopolis made her collegiate debut in garbage time.

Temple head coach Michelle Vittese said after the game that this was a learning experience for her squad. “I think it’s really good for them to expose us, really show us where we need to fine-tune,” Vittese said. The interim head coach also went on to say that team chemistry and synergy needed to improve.  

Owls captain Claire Thomas echoed those thoughts, “We weren’t available for each other, we weren’t communicating with each other.” Thomas went on to note, “I definitely think we’re hungry, we’re hungry for a win and we want to show JMU and everyone else how could we can play.” 

Midfielder Julianne Kopec added, “Our goal was to play together and we’ve been working all week on connecting and passing, and I felt like we fell short a little bit. (Liberty is) a good team; we had our share of opportunities, we just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.” 

The Owls drop to 7-6 overall, and drop to fourth place in the Big East with a 3-2 conference record; they face a quick turnaround with a home battle Sunday against the Dukes of James Madison.  Liberty climbs to 11-2 overall, remaining undefeated in Big East play at 5-0; and likely may be climbing the national rankings as well. They ride their eight-game win streak into Farmville, Virginia to face the Longwood Lancers on Sunday.

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