The quiet bus ride home from George Washington University gave the men’s soccer team plenty of time to sort out the outcome of Sunday’s Atlantic Ten Championship game.
For the second year in a row, the Owls were stuck with the same dismal feeling of coming up just short of the championship, this time to George Washington, 2-0. The loss also ended Temple’s hopes of playing in the NCAA Men’s College Cup.
“It’s disappointing to come up short two years in a row,” said goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan, one of four seniors on the team.
Temple fell behind nine minutes into the game when the Colonials’ Matt Miller headed the ball to Steve Brown, who booted it into the net. The Owls were left chasing an excellent defensive team. The Colonials were third in the league in goals-against average during the regular season. Colonial defender Andre Chapman scored the final goal of the game unassisted.
“It’s disappointing,” coach David MacWilliams said. “They worked so hard and overcame so much. If [George Washington] had not scored so early, I think there may have been a different outcome.
“We dominated the play,” Hannigan said. “They just got some opportune goals. They played a good defensive game.”
The Colonials, plagued by injuries, owned a horrid 1-8-3 record one month ago. They then went on an offensive tear, winning their last nine games. Before beating Temple in the championship game, George Washington upset No. 1 seed Duquesne, winning 4-3 on penalty kicks in a scoreless double-overtime tie.
“We knew it would be a tough game,” MacWilliams said. “They had a lot of confidence playing on their home field.”
Although the Owls did not meet their championship goal, they were well-represented on the A-10 tournament team.
Defender Chris Shelton, midfielder Tony Donatelli, and Hannigan’s performances earned them all-tournament honors. MacWilliams would have liked to have seen more players from both Temple and George Washington on the team, but realized with only 11 spots on the team, selection is competitive.
Shelton scored the game-winning goal in the Owls’ quarterfinal win over La Salle.
Donatelli led the Owls’ strong performance against Dayton in the semifinal with a natural hat trick, a game the Owls won, 3-0. Hannigan notched his second straight shutout, tying an A-10 tournament record.
“That was the best game we played down at the tournament,” MacWilliams said, adding that the key to that game was that the Owls scored first.
Hannigan dismissed glorification on being named to the tournament team.
“That stuff doesn’t matter to me,” Hannigan said. “We came up short as a team.”
The Owls finished the season with a 12-8-2 record and look to battle back into the championship game next season. The Owls will lose just four seniors off of this year’s team.
MacWilliams said he will look to bring in a few new players to compete with this year’s bench players for the vacant starting positions. MacWilliams likes to bring in players as reserves to get experience before he sends them out to start the next year.
Hannigan praised MacWilliams’ program.
“Overall, the team has become better over the last four years,” he said. “The talent has become better.”
Hannigan added that sophomore forward Matt Mayer hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves.
“It’s going to be interesting to see how the goalkeeping position plays out,” he said. “[Tony] Practico has a chance to be one of the best goalies in the conference.”
When next season rolls around, MacWilliams said the Owls will be able to build off of this season.
“We’re the only team in the A-10 to get to the finals two years in a row,” he said.
John Kopp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.