Senior midfielder Tyler Witmer misses first collegiate game after injury on Friday.
Spectators at the Ambler Sports Complex were silenced after a game-winning goal by the Dayton Flyers in the 87th minute of the men’s soccer game on Sunday.
In a scoreless game that was back and forth in the prior 86 minutes, Dayton freshman defender Greg Enstone scored and subsequently dealt the Owls (5-11, 4-2 Atlantic Ten Conference) their second conference loss of the season.
During a Dayton free kick, sophomore goalie Bobby Rosato ran out of his goal to get the ball and missed. The ball then went off of Dayton’s junior forward Evan McCreary to Enstone, who finished it off for the score.
Meanwhile, coach Dave MacWilliams stood silently along the sideline shell-shocked, as he watched Enstone get mobbed by his Dayton teammates.
“We made one really big mistake and it cost us the game,” MacWilliams said. “We lacked energy out there [Sunday]. We didn’t get enough chances and the ones we did have we didn’t take advantage of.”
“We were slow to pull the trigger [Sunday],” MacWilliams added. “We didn’t do enough offensively and because of that we put ourselves in a position to get beat. That’s what happened.”
Sunday’s game came just two days after a 2-0 win against Xavier (9-3-2), a team that was ranked No. 23 for the first time in program history by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll earlier this month.
Midfielders junior Cody Calafiore and sophomore Andrew Dodds had goals for the Owls on Friday.
A fairly physical game from the start, the tone was set in the first 20 minutes, when a foul was called on Xavier in their own box. The foul set up a penalty kick score for Calafiore, but the play caused an injury to senior midfielder Tyler Witmer’s foot.
Witmer had to be helped off the field and was out of commission for the remainder of the game.
“We need to get healthy,” MacWilliams said. “We’ve been hurt by injuries, including [Witmer’s], and we just need to get everyone back out there.”
“The penalty kick was a really big factor,” sophomore midfielder Vaughn Spurrier added. “Getting the first goal early is always huge.”
But Spurrier felt that the team’s strongest aspect of the game came from the defensive end.
“Defensively we kept our shape,” Spurrier added. “So even though they had a lot of the possession, we dictated a lot of their play.”
Xavier continued to pressure Temple’s defense in the second half, intercepting passes and outshooting the Owls 19 – 13 throughout the match. The Owls’ sophomore goalie Bobby Rosato played the whole game, saving all seven of the shots on goal.
“[Friday] was one of the most important games of our conference so far, and was a big step forward,” Rosato said. “We had a slow start this season, but now I think we’re really coming together.”
Dodds broke through the defense in the 90th minute and shot from outside, nicking the post and throwing off the keeper, before the ball was buried in the far corner of the net.
A weekend that started off very well for the Owls suddenly took a different turn after Sunday’s game, and at the end of the day, it certainly didn’t feel like a positive weekend for the Owls.
“This game [against Dayton] was a huge setback for us and our season,” MacWilliams said. “We didn’t play well at all. We battled and so did they, but at the end of the day, we didn’t capitalize on our chances and we came out flat [Sunday].”
After the weekend, Temple is now 7-7 on the year, with an A-10 record of 3-2. Sunday’s loss against Dayton prevented the Owls from improving to 4-1 in conference play, which would have put them amongst the top teams in the conference.
Meanwhile, the win put Dayton tied for first place in the conference with a 4-2 A-10 record, despite a 5-11 overall record.
The Owls will continue conference play on Friday when they travel to face Duquesne, a team that is only two points behind Temple in the A-10 standings. Temple is in a two-way tie for fifth place in the conference with two weeks of regular season play remaining.
“We’ve slowly been progressing throughout the season,” Rosato said. “I still think we can go all the way.”
Drew Parent and Liz Sim can be reached at email@example.com.