New players and a new coach helped club reach milestone.
Cleaning out his apartment before moving, Coach Chris Berkelbach’s pre-season depth chart appears for the first time since the fall, looking different than the Temple team winning the 2015 National Championship.
“There were a lot of players that we did not know that much about coming in, maybe didn’t show to well in tryouts or during the fall,” Berkelbach said. “They never got frustrated, never got down, never said anything about playing time, but just kept getting a little better each day and worked their way up.”
Winning its conference championship and going undefeated, the National Championship is the first in Temple’s lacrosse club history.
Berkelbach said with the right players to do the job, his approach helps meet their potential.
“It was the message I sent to the team, after every practice, our goal is to get better after today, a little bit better,” Berkelbach said. “We never looked ahead, my goal was never to win a national championship, never to go undefeated, my goal was to just get the team better each day and I think we did that.”
With only two practices a week, Berkelbach said the four hours a week the team has to practice is crucial for small improvements.
Berkelbach said the team’s usual offensive burst were key for the team, usually sealing a win after the third quarter, but in the championship final against Binghamton University, things were different.
“We kept waiting for it to happen, but it was not happening,” Berkelbach said. “There were those moments of ‘What is going on? Why are things not going our way,’ but I think defensively, especially are freshmen really stood up.”
Originally set as a fourth line midfielder for a fall scrimmage against Penn University, junior attackman Ryan Flynn scored five goals and the game winning assist against Binghamton.
Flynn’s contribution help Temple defeat Binghamton 10-8. Flynn, the final four MVP and All-tournament recipient said the moment is surreal.
“I honestly couldn’t have done that without all the other guys, I am just the guy that finishes the goals,” Flynn said. “Everything was falling into place, everything went my way and it was a lot of fun to be part of.”
Never playing for an undefeated team since the seventh grade, the University of Pittsburgh transfer said his experience at Temple is one to remember.
“In any sport I have ever played, nothing compares to this season,” Flynn said. After a year and a half break from lacrosse, Flynn struggled during tryouts. Flynn said his main goal is to show the officers and coach he can play even if it has been awhile.
“It came back slow to begin, but it came back as the season went on,” Flynn said. “I just tried to do the best I could do with what they asked us to do.”
Flynn said if he is not at his best now, it is the best he is playing for some time.
Although the transfer back to the lacrosse field was not easy, Flynn said the veterans on the team are more than accommodating.
“In the past we always had the same players coming up, but this year with new players and the limited time we had, we wanted to make the most of it,” senior president and defenseman Julian Freedman said. “A good mix of age and experience, along with the coaching, I think that was the reason for our success. It was just a great mix of people.”
Freedman said the Owl’s lost a number of players to graduation last year, but the new players adapted quickly to the team’s goal.
Being a member of the club since his freshman year, Freedman experienced more victories than ever before this season. From having no goalie in one game to nightmares about losing to West Chester University in the past, Freedman said this team is special.
“I knew we were capable of winning nationals, but I felt we were bound to hit a road bump sooner or later.” Freedman said. “Being able to pull through and win every game, I am beyond impressed, I am speechless.”
After storming the field, shaking hands with Binghamton, the team huddled around Freedman for one last time in his club lacrosse career. Freeman stood, eyes filled with tears, proud of the accomplishment.
Berkelbach said Freedman is a player who takes nothing for granted, something that is crucial in club lacrosse. Berkelbach added lacrosse is not about who starts the season, but who finishes and gains something from it.
“What I will always remember about this year is that it is not all about lacrosse and recognize that,” Berkelbach said. “I wanted them to know after what we accomplished this season, take a step back and realize how cool it is.”