While the offense struggled, senior goalkeeper Bret Mollon had a solid two games.
The men’s soccer team had a tough start to its season over the weekend at Oaks Stadium in the Lafayette Puma Classic. With the departure of a well-regarded senior class that included Philadelphia Union member J.T. Noone, the Owls will now rely on experienced seniors and a fleet of incoming freshmen and sophomores to carry the team through the season.
In the Friday opener, Temple faced Colgate in a defensive battle that ended in a 0-0 tie. Senior goalkeeper Bret Mollon made eight saves to keep the Owls in the game, preserving the shutout in the scoreless tie. Colgate brought pressure early firing shots and forcing Mollon to make six of his saves in the first half.
“Bret had a great weekend,” junior midfielder Tyler Witmer said. “He came up big on Friday and kept the team together which is key, especially with all the young players we have.”
Witmer, who recorded three shots on the day, fueled the Owls’ attack along junior midfielder Cody Calafiore. Each had a shot on Colgate sophomore keeper Grant Reed, but was unable to get one by for the win.
“It was a fair result,” Temple coach David MacWilliams said. “Both teams had a number of chances but were solid defensively.”
The team’s new faces were seen in the season opener. MacWilliams started two freshmen, midfielders Nolan Hemmer and Ryan Bradbury, while other first year players Dalton Carroll and Vaughn Spurrier also made their collegiate debuts.
“I was pleased with the freshman class,” MacWilliams said. “These games go a long way in preparing for Atlantic 10 games, it gives them some experience to a long season.”
Temple slowed down the pace of the game in the second half, limiting Colgate to just two shots after halftime, but the strong defense on both sides kept the game love-love until the final buzzer.
The Owls had similar problems on Sunday against host Lafayette, a team they tied last year.
“When you’re playing Lafayette you know you are in for a low scoring game,” MacWilliams said. “They are a very defensive minded team and don’t let up any easy goals.”
A controversial and converted penalty kick against Temple in the first half pushed Lafayette in front, a deficit the Owls could not come back from.
“The penalty kick shouldn’t have happened,” MacWilliams said.
“There were some shaky calls throughout the game that resulted in red and yellow cards,” Mollon said. “We were down a man in the second half and I thought we did a good job raising our level of play.”
In the end, a total of 46 fouls were called between both teams, and a total of 10 cards were handed out. Many of the Owls and MacWilliams said the officiating was feeble at best.
“The referee put himself into the game,” Witmer said. “He was the 12th man out on the field, and that shouldn’t happen.”
After the referee missed an offsides call against Lafayette, the contact foul was called on Mollon allowing sophomore midfielder Sean Peckham to convert the penalty kick for the Lafayette Leopards. The contact was minimal and did not appear to warrant a yellow card, nor a free kick.
Temple controlled the rest of the game, in spite of being a man down. Senior Max Kinderwater led the Owls with three shots, including a near goal header that forced Lafayette senior goalkeeper Andrew Pianko to make an impressive stop.
Strong defense was the common thread from Temple this weekend. Mollon was forced to make just one save on Sunday while the Owls outshot their opponent, 11-5.
“I was impressed by the freshmen, both who started and coming off the bench,” Mollon said. “If we can continue to play at the level we did in the second half, we will be in good shape this season.”
With a young team like the one Temple has, it is only a matter of time before the players learn each others’ habits on the offensive side and begin to find the back of the net.
“We have to keep working together and focus on getting our chemistry down,” Witmer said. “Defensively, we’re not letting up goals, we just have to turn that into better opportunities for us at the other end.”
The Owls have less than a week of practice before their first home game on Saturday against Soccer Six rival Drexel. It will be no easy task trying to grab the first win of the season. Drexel is 2-0 and coming off a win against Villanova.
“Starting off 2-0, I’m sure Drexel is playing with a lot of confidence,” MacWilliams said. “We will have to keep our defense solid and match their confidence.”
Justin Boylan can be reached at email@example.com.