A historic season for the Owls ended on Friday night.
Temple’s 2-1 loss to Southern Methodist in the first round of the American Athletic Conference postseason tournament knocked them out, ending one of the most successful years in school history.
Tied for the most wins in school history, the Owls came one game short of becoming the winningest women’s soccer team Temple has ever had.
After the game O’Connor said he asked his players to reflect upon their accomplishments and their season as a whole rather than the loss.
“They were very upset,” O’Connor said. “There were a lot of tears, a lot of upset girls. That’s why I asked them to focus not on today, but on the body of our work.”
“It started way back in January and February doing extra sessions in the Pavilion and stuff like that,” O’Connor added. “That’s what we talked about at the end of the game. We were able to smile a little bit and realize we can’t judge this season on one game.”
For the first time in its last four conference games, O’Connor’s squad struck first on the scoreboard. Junior forward Kelly Farrell netted a header off a pass from Alyssa Kirk in the 39th minute to put her team up 1-0 before the half.
However, the Mustangs found an equalizer shortly after half time. After that momentum shifted between the two teams for the rest of the half.
“It was just back and forth back and forth,” O’Connor said.
Both SMU and Temple had several opportunities to regain the lead throughout the rest of the half. Junior goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff made two leaping saves late in the period to keep the Mustangs from scoring.
The Owls’ best chance to tie the game came in the eighth minute when freshman Gabriella McKeown had a shot from point blank stuffed by the SMU goalkeeper. Less than a minute later, the Mustangs reversed fields and found the game-winning goal.
O’Connor said that as someone who has been around the game for a long time, he almost knew the goal was going to happen before it did.
“At the start of the second half they had all the momentum,” O’Connor said. “Then it swung back to us. We started to get the upper hand, then once we missed that chance I think everyone on the side line was like ‘Oh geeze’. It was one of those where you knew it was going to come back to bite you because it was such a close game.”
The game not only ended the season for the team, but also the career of one individual. For Kirk, a senior defender, it was her last game in an Owls’ uniform. O’ Connor said that Kirk, who was second on the team in points this season with 10, will be missed next year.
“Alyssa Kirk is going to be very hard to replace. A quality, quality right back and a quality leader,” O’Connor said.
Farrell’s goal was her ninth. She had two last season … The Owls were outscored by a combined margin 5-0 in their previous three matches with the Mustangs … With an 11-7-1 record this season, the Owls matched the win total of the 2012 and 2013 seasons combined.