Until Monday, the men’s soccer team’s season will hang in the balance.
Temple’s 4-0 loss to Connecticut on Saturday in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament eliminated the team from the conference’s automatic College Cup bid.
Temple (10-7-2, 2-6 The American) has the No. 78 Ratings Percentage Index currently out of 206 Division I teams, and the Owls’ chances of being selected next week to the 48-team field of the College Cup are low.
Through eight games this season, the team’s record was 7-0-1, and the Owls were ranked as high as No. 17 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll.
“I think we lost some confidence toward the end of the year,” coach David MacWilliams said. “It’s tough. … I thought at the beginning of the year we were playing with a lot of confidence, and we had some tough losses that hurt us.”
In Saturday’s game against UConn, the Huskies took a 1-0 lead in the 33rd minute of play when UConn freshman defender Simen Olafsen scored his first goal of the season on an assist from junior midfielder Kwame Awuah.
The Huskies put in three more goals in the second half to seal the victory and move on to the American Athletic Conference tournament semifinal.
MacWilliams, who notched his sixth 10-win season Oct. 24 against Cincinnati, said Temple did not create enough scoring opportunities for itself in the loss to the Huskies.
“They definitely outplayed us,” MacWilliams said. “We had some opportunities, but they’re a very tough team to break down. You can’t give a team like that any gifts … and that’s what hurt us.”
The Owls scored 31 goals this season, more than doubling their 2014 total of 13. Temple’s 35 assists are tied for the No. 18 ranking in Division I.
Temple will lose four seniors to graduation this offseason: forwards Jared Martinelli and Dalton Andrusko, goalkeeper Pat Lestingi and midfielder Josh Tagland. Of that group, only Martinelli saw more than 100 minutes on the field this season.
“We’re really optimistic moving forward,” redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Alex Cagle said. “We only lose two or three real seniors that played a lot this year, and we feel like since we’re a pretty young team that having this season under our belts and gaining maturity means we’re at a huge advantage going forward.”
Ten of the team’s 11 starters return next season, with Martinelli the lone starter not set to return.
Junior midfielder Jorge Gomez Sanchez’s 13 goals are tied for No. 6 in Division I. Freshman midfielder/forward Belal Mohamed, junior midfielder/forward Joonas Jokinen, junior forward Justin Stoddart and junior forward Carlos Moros Gracia combined for 11 goals and 11 assists this season.
“I think our team has some great confidence,” junior defender Matt Mahoney said. “At the beginning of the season, it showed a lot more than when we got into conference play, but our team has confidence in its ability to score goals. The ability that we have to play soccer is also really a confidence booster going forward.”
Dan Newhart can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @dannynewhart.