Coach hoping additions provide offensive spark

It was a tale of two opposite seasons for women’s soccer last year.

After enjoying a non-conference schedule in which the Owls won their first four contests and finished 5-3-1, the Owls struggled through American Athletic Conference play, finishing 1-8 and bowing out of 2013 on a nine-game losing streak.

Coach Seamus O’Connor hopes his team will adjust to the competitiveness of one of what he feels is one of the nation’s strongest soccer conferences in The American.

“It was just such a transition from the [Atlantic 10 Conference], and being my first year coaching here,” O’Connor said.  “It’s a different kind of athlete [in this conference].”

The area that hurt the Owls the most last season was their offense. Scoring only 0.89 goals per game, Temple finished 259th in the nation in that category.

O’Connor said the recruiting for this fall was focused on fixing that exact problem.

“We added at least four starters that can come in on the attacking side,” O’Connor said.  “Our numbers were good defensively … but we just weren’t able to put some goals away.”

A large reason Temple enjoyed success on the defensive side of the ball was goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff.  The sophomore recorded seven shutouts and impressed with 15 saves in a 3-1 loss against Connecticut on Oct. 11.

“Shauni was, for me, easily the best goalie in the conference last year,” O’Connor said.  “I don’t know how she wasn’t selected, because her stats were phenomenal.”

Kerkhoff, along with the rest of the defense, will need to remain strong in a conference where, “every stinkin’ team is good”, O’Connor added.

In terms of where he would like his team to sit by the end of the season, O’Connor said improvement is the primary goal.

“We always want to get better,” O’Connor said.  “I don’t like putting a number on it, but it depends.  Like any other sport, how are we injury-wise?  How do we gel?

“Because each year is a new team … this year,” O’Connor added, “I feel there’s a lot more options and depth, so I do feel it’s going to be a better year for us.”