Junior goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre grabbed the ball from behind him and punted it into the air. It was neither a goal kick nor a clearance, but an act of frustration.
Just a few feet away from him, junior midfielder Zach Brown and sophomore forward Justin Hahn laid on the ground after an attempt to stop a Connecticut goal in the 74th minute.
The UConn goal sent Temple University (5-10-4, 2-5-1 American Athletic Conference) home with a season-ending 3-1 loss in the first round of the men’s soccer conference tournament on Tuesday in Orlando, Florida.
“When they got the third goal, certainly we were already trying to chase the game and trying to get momentum back anyways,” coach Brian Rowland said. “Then we had to get two back, so it made it a little bit more challenging.”
Senior midfielder Belal Mohamed scored Temple’s lone goal, his second of the season, and recorded two shots.
“I’m ultimately disappointed that we couldn’t extend our season,” Rowland said. “We played hard and battled, but we came up short and I think that we’ll learn from it and grow.”
Since Temple joined The American in 2013, the Owls have never advanced beyond the first round of the conference tournament. Temple made it to the tournament five times and faced UConn in three of those games. Temple lost to the Huskies 5-0 and 4-0 in their first two tournament matches.
Tuesday marks the first time Temple has scored a goal in its five conference tournament appearances.
“I think our goals are to not just win one game in the tournament,” Rowland said. “Our goals are to compete for conference championships and beyond, on the national level, and I have full belief that those goals are realistic and something we can accomplish.”
“Physically, we hit a bit of a wall,” he added. “We showed some fatigue in the game that certainly made it difficult to create opportunities.”
The Owls recorded just six shots, only one of which was on target. A loss 2-1 also to UConn on Oct. 20 was the last time Temple was held to six shots. The Owls’ one shot on goal tied their season low, a 1-0 loss against Cincinnati on Sept. 29.
Senior midfielder Hermann Doerner tied the team-high two shots.
“They often are comfortable absorbing pressure in their half and they don’t let too many things in behind them,” Rowland said.
The Owls allowed 15 shots from the Huskies with seven of those on target. Lefebvre ended the night with four saves.
Despite Rowland’s first season as Temple’s coach coming to a close, he was optimistic about the future of the program and the experience his team gained from competing in an elimination tournament game.
“You look at the whole season as a big picture and I think that there’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to keep building on and plenty of real optimism going forward,” Rowland said. “We’ll certainly build upon some of the successes of the season and get to a good place for next year.”