Exactly six months after suffering a season-ending left foot injury in the fall, Temple University men’s soccer redshirt-freshman goalkeeper Eoin Gawronski returned to the field when the Owls took on Drexel University in their first spring game on March 11.
“I was super excited,” Gawronski said. “I had been working hard and training hard for that day all along, I knew the time would come.”
After sitting out for most of the 2021 season, it was difficult for Gawronski to stay mentally focused but being on the sidelines helped him understand his team, as well as take on a coaching role by having an outside perspective. Following his recovery process, he hopes his return will help get the program back to the level it was once at, Gawronski said.
“I feel like I’m mentally prepared for anything,” Gawronski said. “This was different, so I think I learned a lot about myself and I think I’m ready for anything now. That was one of the toughest moments in my life or my career.”
Gawronski earned two shutouts in the team’s first two spring games against Drexel University on March 11 and the University of Loyola Maryland on March 20.
“He’s done everything he needed to do to get himself back into place,” said head coach Brian Rowland. “Now it’s just about getting minutes and training under his belt and games will help get him back to where he was pre injury.”
Gawronski suffered the injury in a 2-1 double-overtime loss to Villanova University on Sept. 11, 2021. He planted on the ground, trying to save a penalty kick, until he landed awkwardly and fractured his left foot.
Following his injury, Gawronski watched games from the sidelines and encouraged his team by providing feedback, which helped him learn more about the team’s culture and weaknesses.
Besides playing at a high level, he wants the team to support each other more off the field. Gawronski plans to help rebuild the team and display strong leadership to help them feel more connected, he said.
Gawronski lost a lot of strength in his leg and left foot. Everyday he worked on getting stronger by doing simple workouts to become healthy again, he said.
In the 2021 season, Gawronski recorded 17 saves and only allowed three goals in four games played. He also made two penalty kick saves in the matches against Seton Hall University and Rutgers University.
Without their key starting goalkeeper in net, the Owls finished the season with a record of 2-12-2 and ended the year on a seven-game losing streak, their worst record in program history.
“When Eoin was out we lacked a bit of leadership,” said junior defender Santiago Majewski. “It’s hard to be a leader off the field, especially when you’re not playing when you’re injured, so having him in the fall is essential for the team.”
In the 2020-21 season, when they played their competitive games in the spring, Gawronski was inserted into the lineup on Feb. 27, 2021, and played every minute for the remainder of the season.
In the goalkeeper’s debut, he made six saves and did not allow any goals against No. 2 Southern Methodist University, the best offense in the nation. The following week, he earned a second straight shutout after he faced 22 shots against the University of Tulsa.
The Limerick, Pennsylvania, native secured a game-high eight saves in the team’s 2-1 win over SMU on April 9, 2021.
Rowland feels Gawronski’s leadership will boost the team’s confidence in their upcoming fall season. Despite being out last season, Gawronski has upheld the program’s values of keeping players accountable for their performances, Rowland said.
“As a center back, I feel like [Gawronski] always has my back,” Majewski said. “He’s just always that guy and a leader, so I fully trust [Gawronski] and he’ll be a great player for us in the fall too.”
For now, Gawronski is looking to win games and get playing time in the spring with a fresh start, he said.
“It will be a big season for me and the team,” Gawronski added. “But I’m hoping to make saves and win a lot of games and make the tournament. That’s the big goal right now, so it’s all about winning and developing as a player.”