Late-game scoring has become the usual for the Owls.
Prior to Thursday’s game they had already won three games with a goal in the 80th minute or later.
In the team’s conference opener and first home game since Aug. 24, Temple brought the late game heroics to Ambler for the first time, beating the Golden Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime.
Sophomore Kayla Cunningham was the leader. After a long throw in by Taylor Trusky near the corner, the ball found Cunningham in front of the net and she drove in the game winner.
“It’s always great scoring and getting the game winner feels really good but it was literally set up for me,” Cunningham said. “I didn’t have to do much thanks to Taylor’s strong throw in.”
Prior to Cunningham’s goal were 98 minutes of back-and-forth soccer.
In the first half of play neither team could gain the upper-hand. The Golden Hurricanes had one scoring opportunity and a diving save by goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff kept them from getting on the scoreboard.
In the second half, the momentum shifted from team to team.
Junior defender Erin Lafferty started the scoring by knocking in a penalty kick for her second goal of the season.
“I needed to finish this opportunity that one of our players created for me in order to get our momentum going and put us ahead,” Lafferty said.
While it seemed the Owls were about to take control of the game, Tulsa responded eight minutes later with a goal of their own and stole back the momentum.
Another nice stop by Kerkhoff and a poorly hit shot by Tulsa from in close kept the game knotted at 1-1.
Junior forward Kelly Farrell, who leads the team in goals with six, weaved through the Golden Hurricanes’ defense in the 69th minute to regain the lead and for a while it seemed that was all that Temple would need.
Defenders Alyssa Kirk and Morgan Elliot, who were both injured in the game against East Carolina on Sunday, were unable to compete for the Owls. Junior forward Gina DiTaranto, who has four goals on the year, got hurt in practice this week and was also unable to play in the game.
Without DiTaranto, freshman Gabriella Mckeown provided a spark at forward for the Owls’ offense.
A pass by McKeown to Cunningham in the 34th minute helped earn the Owls a penalty kick that Erin Lafferty converted into the team’s first goal. McKeown almost assisted on the game winner late in regulation when she played a ball to Cunningham who missed the net by less than a foot.
McKeown and Cunningham were constantly putting pressure on the Golden Hurricanes’ defense. McKeown said that this was the gameplan.
“The defense, they kind of struggled with one vs. one so the whole concept was to turn and go one vs. one and try to beat their defense and I think we did that pretty well,” McKeown said. “We got a lot of opportunities.”
Lafferty, a junior defender, took charge of the defensive unit. A center back for the team, Lafferty felt that her teammates filling in for Kirk and Elliot on the outside did a nice job.
“It’s always difficult switching up your back four but both Kaylee [Harner] and Kelly [Moran] did a great job stepping up and filling in those two positions so there wasn’t as much pressure on the center backs,” Lafferty said.
Moran, a sophomore, started her first game of the year and played 99 minutes.
The ability of his team to rise to the occasion and score in clutch situation has impressed coach Seamus O’Connor. He feels the approach of his team late in games is much different than one season ago in similar situations.
“Our entire focus was not we’re going to lose this,” O’Connor said. “Our entire focus was, ‘O.K., we’re going win this. This is what we’re going to do, we’re going to execute A,B and C and we’re going win it.’”
O’Connor and his team now sit at 9-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference. They will face Memphis in another home game on Sunday.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com.