The Owls have their work cut out for them for their next conference game.
The team dropped their opening conference fixture at Louisville on Sept. 28 by a score of 3-0. The amount of quality players on the Cardinals’ roster was the difference in the outcome of the match, coach Dave MacWilliams said. He said the Louisville midfielders are the best the Owls have faced this season.
The next conference match in the American Athletic Conference will be against No. 22 Connecticut on Oct. 2. MacWilliams said it’s hard to say how the team will prepare for the match.
“You’re playing quality teams,” MacWilliams said. “You’re playing teams that are ranked Top 25 because they are that good. We can’t give up chances against these teams. We’ve got to keep the ball a little bit more so they don’t possess as much. If we finish a couple of our chances then it won’t be a 3-0 game. Again, defensively, we’ve got to do a better job.”
Temple faces the challenge of facing back-to-back ranked teams in its first two conference games of the season, one being the loss against No. 18 Louisville and the other being against UConn – both a big step up from last year’s competition in the Atlantic 10 Conference.
“I’m excited to get the chance to play against some of the best teams in the country,” senior midfielder Ryan Bradbury said. “The A-10 had a bunch of great teams, but in The American you play ranked teams almost every weekend.”
“Playing in The American is just a step in the right direction for the program,” Bradbury added. “Even though it is a new and more difficult league, we still are taking it one game at a time and focusing on doing what we need to do to give ourselves a chance to win.”
This conference transition will be a good test for the Owls to see if they can play at the same level as some of the top schools in the country. Although the defense struggled against Louisville, it had only given up three goals in the eight matches that preceded the game during the non-conference schedule.
“Playing in the conference means we have a chance to validate our hard work and talent,” senior defensemen Nolan Hemmer said. “It gives us the opportunity to play extremely good teams and show that we are just as good.”
Although the team had only rarely faced ranked opposition in past seasons, Nolan said his team isn’t afraid to face ranked opposition and he does not think highly of the rankings.
Whether facing conference opponents or non-conference opponents, ranked teams or non-ranked teams, the most important goal remains the same: winning.
“That’s all we’re doing,” MacWilliams said. “When you’re playing them, [ranked teams] will always put an edge on us because we’re not ranked. I think it’s a new challenge. Obviously the level is higher than what we’ve been in. And it’s definitely going to be different and a challenge for us. But, again we want to win and win against them.”
Temple played eight games before the conference schedule began. Bradbury, a team captain, said the extra time to prepare helped build team chemistry with the new players.
“I think we had a fairly tough schedule,” MacWilliams said. “We’ve played some quality teams. We won our first game and one the road to open the season. But, some of the games we lost were against quality teams. Delaware is 7-1 and I think they’ll be ranked. We had an unfortunate loss against St. Joe’s. So hopefully, it will give us some momentum going into the conference.”
By joining The American, the Owls hope to gain increased recognition by playing against ranked teams more than when they played in the A-10. By doing so, Bradbury said the program is headed in the right direction.
“I definitely think it’s a big step for the program,” Bradbury said. “In the past it was tough to schedule games against big name schools because our RPI wasn’t the best. Now, we play all of our conference games against top schools, so the program can really start to compete against top teams from around the country.”
Hoon Jin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.