It’s been the same old story for the Owls through eight games this season—defense wins games.
Freshman midfielder Matt Mahoney delivered in the 76th minute Wednesday afternoon, with a strike into the top right corner of the net, lifting the Owls to a 1-0 victory over Fordham at the Ambler Sports Complex.
Other than that, it was yet again strong defensive play that secured another win for Temple.
“I think [our defense] has been the backbone of our team,” coach David MacWilliams said.
Led by seniors Nolan and Sawyer Hemmer, two freshmen have stepped up and received more minutes to help stabilize a defensive core that has yet to concede a goal at home.
Freshman Stefan Mueller has played in every second of every game thus far for the Owls, helping to anchor the left side of the defense. Standing to his right is another freshman, Robert Sagel, who has played in all but five minutes.
“I came into the season not knowing what to expect,” Mueller said. “College soccer is a lot different than what I’ve played in the past, it’s great to be a part of this team and to be contributing.”
Mueller and Sagel, along with the Hemmer twins, have been exactly what the Owls coaching staff had hoped for.
“Our backline is probably better than last year, Robby Sagel has really anchored the defense,” MacWilliams said. “He’s playing like a junior or senior out there.”
Sagel, a 6-foot-3, 200 pound center back played a crucial role in limiting Fordham to just three shots on goal.
“You don’t expect to come in as a freshman and get as much playing time as I have,” Sagel said. “I definitely have no complaints.
Sagel is well traveled. Originally from Las Vegas, he was a member of Shattuck St. Mary’s USDDA Academy Team in Minnesota and was ranked the No. 65 recruit in College Soccer News for the Class of 2013.
“This is as far east as I’ve ever been,” Sagel said. “I love it, I’m a big city kid.”
Mueller, a 6-foot-1 left footed fullback was all over the field Wednesday, using his speed and quickness to push the ball forward for the Owls and dictate the action.
“He’s so athletic,” MacWilliams said. “He gets up and down the field. So not only is it tough to get around him, but they are forced to chase him on the offensive side.”
There were no guarantees that either freshman would be given a starting spot. It was something each player had to earn in preseason.
“You recruit these kids and see their potential, and see what they can bring,” MacWilliams said. “You kind of think to yourself, ‘This is where they should be.’ It’s up to them. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to, but in this case, they’ve done a tremendous job.”