Just like that, the fall athletics season has come and gone.
While the hot weather turned to cold and leaves began falling off trees, seven sets of Temple teams were in season. And while there were some disappointments and tough losses along the way, on the whole, it was a rather memorable and noteworthy campaign.
People were saying “Mid-American Conference Championship” and “bowl game.” They were excited. There was anticipation. For Temple football.
But, three heartbreaking losses later, the Owls went 5-7 overall and 4-4 in the MAC, a one-game improvement on last season. The five wins were the program’s most since 1990, though.
The season was perhaps defined in the loss to Buffalo on Sept. 13, where seconds after redshirt senior quarterback Adam DiMichele hit senior wide receiver Bruce Francis for a late, go-ahead score, the Owls failed to cover a last-second Hail Mary attempt from the Bulls and lost the game, 30-28.
A frustrated coach Al Golden summed things up after the game.
“We didn’t do our job,” he said. “We didn’t box out like we’re supposed to. We didn’t have a jumper in position. We work on it all the time. We didn’t do our job. They finished the game. We didn’t.”
The week before, the Owls lost in overtime to Connecticut. One week after Buffalo, they lost DiMichele for a month to a shoulder injury. A week after that they lost to Western Michigan 7-3.
Nov. 1 against Navy, the Owls blew a 20-point fourth quarter lead and lost in overtime.
Despite all the frustrations and excuses to quit, Temple finished the season strong and went out as winners.
What began as a promising year quickly faltered into an early round playoff exit.
The Owls finished 15-15 overall and 6-7 in Atlantic Ten Conference play, with their season coming to a close Nov. 21 against Xavier.
Longtime coach Bob Bertucci’s squad finished third in the A-10 East, but it couldn’t get past the top teams in the conference, going 1-7 against the teams that made the A-10 Championship.
Three of those losses came in 3-2 games, which normally accounts for not getting the job done late in matches.
And that’s something Bertucci noticed back in October.
“When it’s early in the match, we’re loose. There is no pressure, and we’re fine,” he said. “As the opponent starts to step up and starts to adjust to what we’re doing and, therefore, put pressure on us, we tighten up.”
But, the Owls have just one senior on their roster, as the young squad hopes to build for next season.
Talk about coming out of nowhere.
The Owls, led by seven goals and 12 assists from junior forward J.T. Noone, advanced all the way to the A-10 semifinals.
A 2-1 overtime loss to Dayton ended their season, but finishing at 10-5-4 overall and 6-1-2 in conference was a marked improvement over past seasons.
And while the season was certainly a success, coach David MacWilliams knows the job still has some unfinished business.
“I’m happy with the efforts but not happy with the end result,” he said after the loss to Dayton on Nov. 14. “We wanted to and believed we could make the NCAA Tournament this year. It was a great accomplishment, but we tried to set the bar and standards higher.”
The good thing for the Owls is the squad has just two seniors, so the proverbial bar will be set even higher once the 2009 season gets underway.
The Owls had a rough couple of months, finishing 4-11-4 overall and 2-6-3 in conference.
On the positive side, they found a legitimate scorer in freshman Niki Conn. In 18 games, the forward/midfielder tallied four goals and an assist.
The Owls also have a pair of up-and-coming goalies to block up the net, as sophomore Kara Williams and freshman Courtney Douglas looked solid in a majority of games.
The Cherry and White also played well on Senior Day, beating George Washington 2-1.
“We’re a young team,” Jones said. “Even though we had a few seniors this year, we relied on freshmen and sophomores a lot. Plus, the competition within the A-10 is hard.”
It was a rollercoaster ride for one of the A-10’s top teams in the past half-decade.
Coach Amanda Janney led the Owls to an 8-12 record, but the numbers are deceiving. They played a deep non-conference schedule that included Boston, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State. Scrapping their way into the postseason, the Owls dropped a fifth straight A-10 semifinals game at home to Richmond.
The 4-3 loss came on a controversial overtime goal.
And while the Owls lose defensive anchors Mary Catherine Kinneman and goalkeeper Erin Hanshue, the offense should be locked in for 2009.
“We’ve come a long way this season,” Janney said. “We’ve gotten better every game, which makes us happy as a coaching staff that they have really improved.”
Men’s and Women’s Tennis
Both sets of the Owls finished their fall campaigns with plenty of memorable moments.
In early September, the men took home the inaugural Philadelphia City 6 Tournament behind the rackets of freshman Filip Rams and junior Nathan Spunda. The duo met in the finals of the singles competition, with Rams winning two sets to one. In the Intercollegiate Tennis Association championships, their final event, the men put together a solid 4-2 record.
The women, last spring’s A-10 champions, also made headlines in September.
At the Cornell Invitational, junior Anastasiia Rukavyshnykova won the Flight B singles championship, while her teammate, sophomore Theresa Stangl, won Flight C.
“It was a great effort by the team,” men’s and women’s coach Steve Mauro said. “I’m very happy the way they responded in the first tournament of the year.”
Todd Orodenker and Anthony Stipa can be reached at email@example.com.