WRITTEN BY: JACOB GUZDEK
Freshman midfielder Maddie Merton tallied two goals and an assist, while redshirt junior forward Sarah Keer added a goal and an assist, as the Temple defeated the Quinnipiac by a score of 3-2.
The win brought the Owls back to .500 in conference play, as they sit at 3-3, while the loss dropped the Bobcats to 3-3 in the conference. These are two of the four teams who are battling for the final two spots in the Big East tournament, which is just two weeks away.
“Every game from this one to our last game is huge for us,” Merton said. “But we are just trying to focus on one game at a time and we need to train and be prepared for our final two games.”
Although Temple came away with the win in the end, it wasn’t an easy road to victory.
Quinnipiac jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the sixth minute when junior forward Felicia Costanzo received a long pass from outside the circle from junior back Lauren Belskie. Costanzo then beat Temple’s freshman goalkeeper Maddie Lilliock for the goal.
In the 14th minute, Temple endured another blow when senior forward Katie Foran went down after getting hit in the face on an errant pass attempt. Foran was down for a while before the medical staff was finally able to get her up. She was then taken to the locker room, and later to the hospital for x-rays.
“It was a shock at the beginning, and whenever a teammate gets hurt like that it rattles you,” Merton said. “But as a team we came together and we were playing that game for Katie because this is one of her last games and we knew she would do anything to be out there playing.”
After the injury to Foran, the Owls took control of the game for the remainder of the first half and most of the second half.
Temple was able to even up the score at 1-1 in the 23rd minute, when Merton drew a penalty corner and put home the rebound off a shot from junior forward Hattie Kuhns.
After that first goal, the Owls put the pressure on the Bobcats. In the next five minutes, Temple generated three penalty corners, converting on the third one when Keer took the insert pass from Merton and rocketed a shot from the top of the circle past the goalkeeper, giving Temple a 2-1 lead.
“Our forwards did a very good job of pressuring passes and generating penalty corners,” head coach Marybeth Freeman said. “It’s something that we work on all the time. With the forwards being the first line of defense, I think they did a great job in setting the tone for everyone else behind them.”
The Owls held their 2-1 lead until the end of the half. They took six shots on goal compared to just one for Quinnipiac. Temple also generated eight penalty corners, far more than the Bobcats’ one.
The second half started in a stalemate as Quinnipiac quickly went down a player, failing to pressure the Owls at all. Temple became content with having their backs just pass the ball back-and-forth.
Both teams’ goalkeepers made some key saves on penalty corner chances, before Temple added to its lead in the 53rd minute. Keer threw a pass all the way across the circle to Merton, who found herself wide open on the back post, allowing her to bury the goal for her second of the day.
With a 3-1 lead in hand, the Owls went into conservative mode, once again content with the backs just passing back-and-forth. The Bobcats didn’t apply much pressure until the final five minutes.
In the 67th minute, junior midfielder Dayna Barlow picked up a loose ball in front of the net and put it home, trimming their deficit to one. But it was too little too late, as Quinnipiac was unable to come up with a tying goal in the final three minutes.
Temple finished the game with ten shots on goal, while generating nine penalty corners. Lilliock made two saves, and freshman back Becky Gerhart and senior midfielder Michelle Walsh contributed a defensive save each.
“We really made our individual defense a priority for this game after we did a poor job with it in last week’s game against Villanova,” Freeman said.
Temple will be back in action next Friday when they go on the road to face off against Liberty University for their final Big East game of the season. If the Owls win that game, they will clinch a spot in the conference tournament. If they can’t pull out the win, they’ll need some help from other teams to make it in.
“Going down to Virginia to play at Liberty is going to be tough on their home field, there’s no question about that,” Freeman said.