As the Owls walked off the field Oct. 21 following a 2-0 loss to Connecticut, they knew they had their work cut out for them for the rest of the season.
The loss to the Huskies followed a 2-0 loss to Tulsa, which dropped Temple’s Ratings Percentage Index to No. 83 out of 206 Division I teams.
Forty-eight teams are selected for the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship, or College Cup, with 24 conference-tournament champions earning automatic bids. The rest of the teams are selected at-large based on RPI and strength of schedule.
Despite a 3-1 win Saturday against Cincinnati on Senior Night, senior midfielder Josh Tagland said Temple’s margin for error has significantly decreased if it hopes to reach the College Cup.
“We need to win the conference tournament to get into the NCAA tournament,” Tagland said. “We understand there’s a little more desperation now to try to win, not that there wasn’t before. We have enough players that are capable of putting the ball in the back of the net and step up.”
In each of their last three games, the Owls, who have a No. 77 RPI, have outshot their opponents. In the Senior-Day win against Cincinnati, Temple logged 20 shots, including 10 shots on goal.
Redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper Alex Cagle said while it has been encouraging to see the team creating offensive opportunities, the coaching staff put an emphasis on finishing following the loss to UConn.
“In the second half, five minutes before [UConn] scored, we had a really good scoring opportunity I think we should’ve taken advantage of,” Cagle said. “A big point we made is that we have to finish those chances. When you have so many opportunities, especially against a good team like UConn, you definitely have to take advantage.”
Prior to the Tulsa loss, the Owls won two games in a row—a 4-0 win against Memphis Oct. 10 followed by a 3-1 victory against Columbia University Oct. 13. Those wins were preceded by a four-game winless streak spanning nearly two weeks.
Temple lost 3-2 to Cincinnati Sept. 26 and played the University of Delaware to a 0-0 draw in double overtime Sept. 30. South Florida topped the Owls 1-0 Oct. 3, and Central Florida defeated Temple 3-1 Oct. 7.
“The confidence isn’t quite where it was at the beginning of the season when we were 7-0-1, but it’s getting up there,” Cagle said. “We have to be smarter when we’re pressing, press harder and definitely be more disciplined in the back, so we don’t give up those odd-man breaks.”
The Owls have one game remaining in the regular season, an Oct. 31 matchup in Dallas, Texas, against Southern Methodist.
The team is currently in sixth place in The American with a 2-5 record and six total points. Temple can finish as high as third place with a win against the Mustangs and losses from Tulsa, Central Florida and UConn.
“I think [Cincinnati] was a good start to get us back on track,” senior midfielder/forward Jared Martinelli said. “Hopefully we’ll get a win next week to get some momentum going and get a win in the conference tournament.”
Dan Newhart can be reached at email@example.com.