Fall equals football. But not here at Temple.
While the football program continues to stumble, the 2004 men’s soccer team has all the potential of a conference title.
Coach Dave MacWilliams might just have one of the most compelling teams of the fall.
That’s not to say volleyball or field hockey should be pushed by the wayside.
Last year all three teams made it to their respective conference championships, only to fall short of titles.
Coaches Bob Bertucci (volleyball) and Lauren Fuchs (field hockey) will have competitive teams, but both seem to be going through transition years.
Men’s soccer has fought through the doldrums in the past few years and goes into 2004 with the realistic possibility of a conference title. Beginning next year, the football program will be bereft of a conference.
MacWilliams’ squad was not even picked to finish first in the Atlantic Ten. That went to Dayton. And so far the 2004 campaign has been a bumpy one at that, with the Owls dropping three of their first four games to vaunted programs like Duke and North Carolina State.
Moreover, the Owls have scored just one goal this season thus far.
So why the hype?
The Owls return almost all of their core players. That includes top scorers Nate Webb and Tony Donatelli. But Webb missed this weekend’s Long Island University tournament due to an aggravated back.
Still, they return 17 of 28 players who are either juniors or sophomores, which indicates both experience and depth. It also means these guys know how to win together.
It was just three years ago when MacWilliams struggled to put together a team. At one time a feeble program, now they’re starting to make some noise.
And the guy making the most noise is goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan. The senior was the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year and is a fiery leader. He anchors the defense with a keen eye and has no scruples to shout out directions to his defenders if they are out of position.
This team is ripe and should provide Temple fans something to get excited about. That is if you like soccer. But so far the team has been essentially anonymous.
There is good reason why those interested in watching this season’s most intriguing team have yet to even catch a glimpse. MacWilliams set up a schedule of eight consecutive road games, because he feared the team’s new home field, located at Ambler campus, would not be ready yet.
Although one of those road games is at Drexel, the Owls won’t christen their new field until Oct. 1 against Rhode Island.
Overall they will play just four home games, so a chance to see the school’s most promising program will be limited.
They do play three other games in the city, but those are technically away games at Drexel, Saint Joseph’s and LaSalle.
So while the listless football program staggers through another tough season, the other fall sports can potentially provide winning seasons and maybe a conference title or two to go with it.
Jason S. Haslam can be reached at email@example.com.