Sports

Defense steps up in early matchups

Ahead of conference play, Owls have given up just three goals.

During the Owls’ 5-2 stretch to start the season, one aspect of the team’s play has stood out most: the defense.

Temple has given up three goals in six games so far in 2013 and had great success earlier in the season when they were able to produce four straight shutout victories.

“I think most of the games, it’s been pretty equal,” coach David MacWilliams said. “The Delaware game was one game when they had the upper hand. It’s not like football where the defense stays on the field and put a lot of pressure on them. We just need to pressure well to relieve the defense sometimes. But against St. Joe’s, because they play a direct style, that forced our defenders to defend at a much deeper line.”

“I think it’s frustrating because we lost the game,” MacWilliams said. “We knew we weren’t going to go the whole season with a shutout. There’s always going to be ups and downs and mistakes are going to happen. You can’t expect the defense to put up shutouts all the time.”

With the amount of new players on the roster, however, MacWilliams said he didn’t know what to expect from his back four after including two freshmen into the starting lineup. Senior center back Nolan Hemmer is not surprised at the defense’s success thus far.

“I think the two freshmen have integrated well and are getting more comfortable as we go forward,” Hemmer said. “I am impressed with the fact that we have four shutouts in six games. The main goal for a defender is to put up a zero for the other team when the whistle blows. It’s not an easy thing to do, so I’m impressed with our progress and I’m excited going forward.”

“Obviously it’s frustrating to play defense for majority of a game, but if the offense just isn’t clicking one day, then I am fine with rolling up my sleeves and helping them out,” Hemmer added. “We are a team and we have to help each other out. We are all working for a common goal.”

Junior starting goalkeeper Dan Scheck said the whole team deserves a lot of the credit for the great defensive success the Owls have had this season. Scheck said it starts from the coaching staff preparing for the team and implementing tactics to putting the team in a position to win.

Scheck had his four-game clean sheet streak snapped against St. Joseph’s when they lost 1-0, but he said he’s not too concerned about the record. He wants to put up zeros game-by-game and not think about the streaks.

“I don’t find pressure,” Scheck said. “The defense has played very well when we needed it, and I’ve played well to make key saves. So, going into any game, I’m going to try and help the team win and by doing that is to keep the clean sheet. It’s more of a daily thing.”

Hemmer said the leadership on the field has been a group effort.

“As defenders, we are all leaders and should be the most vocal guys on the field,” Hemmer said. “Being a center back, I can see the whole field and it allows me to vocalize to people where to go and what men to mark. [Scheck] is also a very vocal guy. He does a really good job at letting the back four know what’s going on and alert us of possible forwards trying to get a ball in behind us.”

MacWilliams stressed the importance of a team game and that no player or position is more important than the others.

“I think we are organized,” MacWilliams said. “We’ve made good decisions for the most part, and we have a fairly good talent. Guys in front have done a good job defensively. And when we do have breakdowns, [Scheck] comes up with the big saves and keeps the team in the game. It is a total team effort, so you can’t say just the back four, but all the 11 guys on the field.”

Hoon Jin can be reached at hoon.jin@temple.edu.

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