Sparks have already begun to fly at Temple Stadium, where the men’s soccer team is off to a torrid start.
Returning nine starters, including two of the top players in the Atlantic 10 Conference in sophomore midfielder Tony Donatelli and junior goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan, the Owls are 4-2-1, after falling to Pennsylvania, 1-0, yesterday.
Hannigan, one of the nation’s leaders in total saves last year, recently came back from a broken arm to boost the roster.
“Our team was good last year but we suffered a lot of very close defeats,” Hannigan said. “This year’s team has a good core of young, vibrant players that learned from our troubles last year and now know how to pull out those close games.”
Facing Villanova this past weekend in a Philadelphia Soccer Seven game, the Owls failed to tally a goal, but still managed to leave the Main Line with a 0-0 tie.
Hannigan’s seven saves and formidable presence in the net kept the Owls in it.
Hannigan said a win would have been nice, but staying with a Wildcat team that has given them some trouble in the past helped build the Owls’ confidence.
“We’ve lost to ‘Nova the past three years so we were determined to have a good showing this year,” Hannigan said. “A shutout-tie is the second best thing to a win, so we can’t be upset with ourselves. No game is ever easy against another Philly team.”
The Owls open A-10 play Oct. 3 against Dayton at home and are carrying aspirations for a conference title.
Posting a dramatic 1-0 win over perennial power North Carolina State has set the tone for the team.
Donatelli scored the game-winner late in the match and admitted the importance of the win over the Wolfpack and the implications it has for the rest of the season.
“Nobody really gave us a chance to win that game down at NC State,” he said. “We were playing a team that is in one of the top soccer conferences in the nation and taking them on at their home turf.”
The last few years have been a struggle for the Owls.
Both Hannigan and Donatelli echoed the views of many involved with the team when speaking about what this year’s squad could accomplish.
“Our team is the real deal this year,” Donatelli said. “We’re winning because we’re supposed to and not because we’re lucky.
“In the past, teams would look on the schedule and see Temple and say ‘that’s an easy win.’
This year we have more confidence and determination than ever before and the chemistry of our team is finally gelling together.”
Doug Saylor can be reached at DGSYLR@aol.com.