Hanging onto playoff hopes

The men’s soccer team traded shutouts during the weekend, defeating St. Bonaventure, 1-0, while losing 1-0 to Duquesne. The Owls currently hold the sixth, and last, Atlantic Ten Conference playoff spot.

Temple's #3 Freshman F/M Matt MacWilliams
JAZMYNE ANDERSON TTN Freshman forward/midfielder Matt MacWilliams dribbles the ball between two Duquesne defenders in Temple’s 1-0 loss to the Dukes Sunday.

With an inconsistent performance over the weekend, senior midfielder J.T. Noone and the men’s soccer team made their pursuit of an Atlantic Ten Conference playoff berth that much harder.

Entering the weekend, the Owls had gone on the road for their first three conference games, defeating Saint Joseph’s and Massachusetts before losing to Rhode Island, 4-1, on Oct. 18. Considering the Owls only play four conference home games all year, this weekend was of the utmost importance, Temple coach David MacWilliams said.

“You’ve got to win your home games,” MacWilliams said. “When you don’t win your home games, those are the teams that find themselves out of the playoffs.”

On Friday, the Owls faced off against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. Temple’s lone goal came off the foot of senior forward Augustin Coly, who took a pass from freshman midfielder Homero Rodriguez at the 56:23 mark and drilled the ball into the back of the net. Ultimately, that one goal was enough, as junior goalkeeper Bret Mollon recorded his fifth shutout of the season and secured a 1-0 victory.

“Bret’s played well this year,” MacWilliams said. “On Friday, he won the game for us.”

The success stopped there for the Owls. They returned to the Ambler Sports Complex on Sunday to face the Duquesne Dukes, a team fresh off a 4-0 victory against St. Joe’s.

After playing the Dukes to a standstill for the majority of the game, the Owls let their guard down in the final minute, and Duquesne freshman forward Joshua Patterson made them pay for it. Patterson took a pass from senior defenseman Alex Trujillo at the 89:43 mark and arched his shot over the outstretched arms of Mollon. The Dukes scored the lone goal of the game. The 1-0 loss left an extra sour taste in the mouths of the Owls, as the Dukes entered the game fighting for a playoff spot.

Noone said that while the loss was obviously a devastating one, the Owls did manage to do many things well, primarily on defense.

“At times, we knocked the ball well,” Noone said. “I think we defended well. We just let our guard down for a minute, and in this league, you get punished for that.”

In the end, though, the Owls simply could not find the back of the net on offense. MacWilliams attributed that to one fairly simple reason.

“We didn’t get enough runners in the box,” MacWilliams said. “We can control the ball, and when the winger serves it, we need to have runners in the box.”

With the weekend split, the Owls find themselves with nine points in the A-10 standings, good for sixth in the conference. The top six teams make the playoffs, but there are still games to be played, and the Owls have put themselves in a situation that allows for little error.

“The split doesn’t help us,” MacWilliams said. “[The loss to Duquesne] is a very disappointing loss.”

The Cherry and White have a tough week coming up, as the team travels across town to face the La Salle Explorers before heading north to face the conference-leading Fordham Rams.

“All the A-10 games are tough,” MacWilliams said. “Those are only winnable games if we put our all into it.”

“Fordham is a big one for us. They’re doing well in the league,” Noone added. “La Salle, too. I think they’re a good team, so this’ll be a tough week for us.”

Kyle Gauss can be reached at kyle.gauss@temple.edu.

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