Fernandez finishes 12th in NCAA meet

Graduate-junior Blanca Fernandez officially concluded her first indoor track & field season at Temple after competing in the semifinals of the NCAA National Championship at Fayetteville, Arkansas on Friday.

Fernandez finished in 12th place in the mile run with a time of 4 minutes, 42.17 seconds. Fernandez was four seconds away from moving into 10th place, which would have allowed her qualification into the finals on Saturday.

After arriving at Temple in January, Fernandez was the first athlete to represent Temple at Nationals in 28 years.

Her season was highlighted by breaking two Temple indoor track records in both the mile and 3,000-meter runs. She also claimed first place in both races at the American Athletic Conference Championships on Feb. 27-28.

With this, the Owls will officially open up their outdoor track & field season at the University of Pennsylvania on March 21 for the Philadelphia Classic.

-Tyler DeVice

Men’s basketball to contest conference quarterfinal with Memphis

HARTFORD, Conn. – When Memphis faces the Owls Friday in a quarterfinal matchup in the American Athletic Conference Tournament, it’ll likely do so without its top scorer.

Sophomore forward Austin Nichols re-injured his ankle in the Tigers’ 74-72 overtime loss to Tulsa on Feb. 28, and hasn’t played since. Reports last week said Nichols, who averages 13.3 points per game, will likely sit out for the duration of the Connecticut-hosted tournament, which will take place in downtown Hartford at the XL Center.

Nichols initially injured the ankle in Memphis’ 61-60 home defeat to the Owls (22-9, 13-5 The American), in which junior guard Josh Brown hit a game-winning jump shot with 2.4 seconds left to play.

Senior forward Calvin Godfrey has averaged 11 points in his last two games starting in Nichols’ spot on the frontcourt alongside junior Shaq Goodwin. Without Nichols, Goodwin will enter Friday’s contest as the leading scorer for the Tigers (18-13, 10-8 The American) with his 9.5 ppg.

Senior guards Will Cummings and Jesse Morgan are coming off games in which they netted point totals of 23 and 17, respectively, in the Owls’ 75-63 defeat of Connecticut in their regular-season finale March 7 at the Liacouras Center. Cummings, who earned first-team all-conference honors for his regular-season efforts, paces Temple with 14.1 ppg, along with 4.3 assists per game and 2.1 steals per game. After re-joining the starting lineup Jan. 22 against South Florida after suffering a muscle strain in his lower left leg earlier in the month, Cummings hasn’t scored less than 12 points in any of Temple’s contests since.

Morgan, meanwhile, enjoyed his highest point total in a game Saturday since he netted 19 points in the Owls’ defeat of USF on Jan. 22. He sank 5 of 7 3-pointers in the victory, including two in the game’s final eight minutes.

With the absence of Nichols, junior Jaylen Bond, the conference’s leading rebounder with 8.3 boards per game, could benefit from a favorable matchup Friday alongside a combination of Temple forwards Devontae Watson and Obi Enechionyia.

Temple last won a conference tournament in the 2010-11 season as a member of the Atlantic 10. In The American’s inaugural tournament at Memphis last year, the Owls dropped a 94-90 contest to South Florida in double overtime.

The Tigers entered a conference quarterfinal matchup against Connecticut last season as the favorites and the No. 19-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but were topped, 72-53, by the Huskies en route to UConn’s national-title-winning run.

The two teams will tip off at 2 p.m., and will be shown on ESPN2. The winner will play Saturday at 3 p.m. against the victor of a quarterfinal between East Carolina and Southern Methodist, which will take place Friday at noon.

Fencers to compete in NCAA Championships

Two of Temple’s fencers will join 142 competitors at the 2015 NCAA Championships.

Freshman Safa Ibrahim and junior Fatima Largaespada were chosen by the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Fencing Committee on Tuesday to compete March 19-22 at French Fieldhouse at Ohio State.

Ibrahim topped off her stellar season by finishing eighth last weekend in the Mid-Atlantic/South Regional. The epeeist now looks ahead to the national championships as she faces 23 other fencers in her squad.

After battling a back injury that kept her in limited action during the first half of the season, Largaespada is making her third appearance in the national meet. The foilist said she knew she would be selected after she earned a fourth-place ranking in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional competition last weekend.

“After my performance at regionals, I was really, really happy with the way I did,” Largaespada said. “If I would have done bad, I probably would have been on the list to stand by, but after I saw how I ranked during the season I thought, ‘OK, I can work with it. I know I can qualify again and I just have to focus.’”

Largaespada acknowledges that she still feels a bit of pain from the back injury, but she said it is not as bad as it used to be.

“I have been going to therapy,” Largaespada said. “I got MRIs done, so I tried to get better as soon as I could and it worked.”

The junior will compete against 23 of the best foilists in the nation, but Largaepada looks to accomplish a goal she had set in the beginning of the season.

“I hope to make the Top 15 at nationals,” Largaepada said. “I just have to stay focused.”

Round-robin competition will start off the tournament, in which the Top 4 finishers in each squad will face off in the semi-finals. The  winners will then compete for the title in each weapon class.

Dunphy honored as conference’s coach of the year

Fran Dunphy was chosen as the American Athletic Conference’s Coach of the Year award at the conference’s awards luncheon held Thursday at the XL Center, according to a recent press release.

Dunphy, who owns a career coaching record of 499-269, has led the Owls to a 22-9 mark this year after the team finished 9-22 last season, when it failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006-07 – Dunphy’s first season as Temple coach.

“I am humbled by this honor as there are so many coaches deserving of this award in our conference,” Dunphy said in the release. “While this may read Coach of the Year, it is truly a team award. I would like to recognize our staff for all the hard work throughout the season, and our players for their hard work this season.”

The honor marks the third time the 26-year coach has been honored with a conference coach-of-the-year award at Temple. Previously, he was named the Atlantic 10 Conference Coach of the Year in 2010 and 2012.

Players earn weekly awards

Temple’s Nicole Tiernan and Jaqi Kakalecik earned half of the four Big East Conference weekly awards this past week. Tiernan, a junior forward from Washington Township, New Jersey, was named the conference’s midfielder of the week, while Kakalecik, a junior goalie hailing from Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, took home the defensive player of the week honor.

Leading the Temple offense, Tiernan scored seven goals during the week of spring break, including a career-high five-goal effort against Wagner College on March 4.

Kakalecik was a big part of Temple’s two-win week, as well, securing both wins in goal and tying a career high with 10 saves against Iona College.

-Matt Cockayne

Temple hires new field hockey coach

Temple’s athletic department has hired Marybeth Freeman, a five-time Division I title winner as both a player and coach, as the university’s new head field hockey coach, the department announced Tuesday in a press release.

Freeman coached Columbia University for five seasons prior to her hiring. She will replace former coach Amanda Janney, who resigned last month for a head-coaching position at Indiana University.

Freeman guided a Columbia team that went 12-5 last season, and tied for the program’s second-highest win total in its history. Prior to her time with the Lions, she won three national championships with the University of Maryland as an assistant coach.

“It’s an exciting time to be entering the Temple athletics community,” Freeman said in the release. “The alumni, the facilities and the energy surrounding Temple provide a great sense of pride and support throughout the campus. The recent successes the team has experienced will be an excellent foundation to start this new chapter for the program. I am eager to begin working with this talented group of women and for us to represent Temple field hockey the best we can on the field, in the classroom and within the community.”

Freeman graduated from Old Dominion University in 2002, helping the Lady Monarchs to national championships in 1998 and 2000 as a four-year starter.

She’ll take over a Temple program that finished nationally ranked with 14 wins in each of its past two seasons. The Owls reached the Big East Conference title game last fall, and lost to then-No. 3 Connecticut in a season-ending 4-1 defeat.

Trio awarded season honors

Junior Erica Covile, freshman Alliya Butts and senior Tyonna Williams each earned American Athletic Conference regular-season awards, the conference announced Wednesday.

Covile and Butts, who was also selected to the All-Freshman team, were named to the All-Conference third team, while Williams was the recipient of The American’s Sportsmanship Award. Each of the conference’s 11 coaches voted on the awards.

During the regular season, Covile averaged 11 points per game and a team-high eight rebounds per game, both of which were career-highs for the junior forward. After starting 26 games last season, the Detroit, Michigan native was one of three Owls to start in all 31 regular-season games and one of two players to log 900-plus minutes. The junior also totaled nine double-doubles after recording none through her first two seasons in a Temple uniform.

Along with her third-team honor, Butts was one of two unanimous selections for the All-Freshman team. The Edgewater Park, New Jersey native averaged a team-high 12 points and totaled a team-high 62 steals.

The freshman guard, who started 19 games this season, started the season coming off the bench and did not enter the starting lineup until Dec. 28, 2014 against the University of Memphis. After joining the starting lineup, Butts scored in double figures 14 times, including 11 straight games from Jan. 11 to Feb. 17.

Williams, the Owls’ lone senior, appeared in 124 games, starting in 95, and averaged eight points per game en route to her Sportsmanship Award. She ranks second all-time on Temple’s career 3-point list with 159. The Fort Washington, Maryland native also ranks fifth all-time in school history in career assists with 371.

For the season, she averaged a career-high 10 pointers per game.

The Owls will enter the Connecticut-hosted American Athletic Conference tournament this weekend as the fourth seed, and will play fifth-seeded East Carolina Saturday at noon.

East Carolina sweeps Owls

Freshman Alina Abdurakhimova lost for the first time in singles since Jan. 24 as the Owls dropped their second straight conference match to East Carolina on Wednesday, 4-1.

East Carolina dominated in all facets of the match by winning three out of four singles matches, and winning the doubles point by narrowly escaping two of the three matches in 7-6 victories.

The only point earned by the Owls came from sophomore Anais Nussaume, who won in straight sets with scores of 6-4, 6-2.

In its last two conference matches, the Owls have been outmatched, only earning two total points. They only earned those points in singles, failing to claim any of the doubles points.

The men’s team also played East Carolina Wednesday and lost, 4–0. The Owls were swept for the second straight conference match.

Just like in Temple’s 7-0 loss to Memphis earlier in the season, East Carolina controlled each match and didn’t allow any Owls to score more than four games in a set.

Both teams have struggled in conference play so far, going 0-4 with two points scored. The Owls have been unable to find success in singles or doubles against early conference competition, allowing opponents to control the outcome of each match.

Both the men’s and women’s teams have Connecticut left on their schedules at the Student Pavilion, which will be the last conference opponent they face before the American Athletic Conference Championships.

Both teams will be in Maryland Saturday as they both take on Hampton at 10 a.m. and Maryland Eastern Shore at 3 p.m.

-Dalton Balthaser

Fernandez earns spot in NCAA meet

After leading the conference in both the mile and 3,000-meter runs at this past weekend’s American Athletic Conference Championships, graduate-junior Blanca Fernandez was officially awarded a bid to the 2015 NCAA Indoor National Championships Wednesday.

Fernandez, who began running for Temple earlier this semester, earned the 15th spot out of 16 runners for the mile. She will be seeded at a time of 4 minutes, 40.60 seconds, which she registered at the Alex Wilson Invite on Feb. 21.

Fernandez will be the first athlete in 28 years to represent the women’s track & field team at the national meet, the last being high jumper Felicia Hodges in 1987.

“I’m thrilled that she is going to have the opportunity to race against the best girls here in the NCAA,” Cross Country coach James Snyder said. “Any time you’re a competitor like she is, you have high goals and you want to get a chance to measure up against the best to see really how good you are.”

Fernandez, Snyder, and head coach Elvis Forde will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas for the meet, which will take place March 13-14.

-Tyler DeVice

Rhule hires two assistants

Matt Rhule has added two new coaches to his staff for the 2015 football season.

The Owls head coach will be welcoming Glenn Thomas, a former assistant with the Atlanta Falcons, who will join as a quarterbacks coach, and Frisman Jackson as wide receivers coach.

Thomas spent four years as an offensive assistant coach, and three as a quarterbacks coach with the Falcons under head coach Mike Smith. The 37-year-old will take on the responsibility of reversing junior quarterback P.J. Walker’s sophomore slump.

Walker, a two-year starter, saw decreases in completion percentage, yards per average, touchdown passes and quarterback rating while throwing seven more interceptions than his previous season.

Jackson, a former wide receivers coach at North Carolina State, will slide into former Owls receivers coach Adam DiMechele’s spot, who will be reassigned to director of player development.

“I’m very excited to add such talent and diversity to our coaching staff,”  Rhule said in a press release announcing the coaching hires. “Frisman and Glenn have worked at the highest level and can lead our student-athletes to greater heights. I’m also excited about what each man brings to the table as a recruiter.”