Men’s soccer team battles for playoff position

By splitting decisions with Rhode Island and UMass, the Owls earned crucial points.

By splitting decisions with Rhode Island and UMass, the Owls earned crucial points.

With the Atlantic Ten Conference tournament only weeks away, the men’s soccer team badly needed points this weekend.

Two home games against Massachusetts and Rhode Island gave them a great opportunity to make a move out of the logjam in the middle of the A-10 standings.

“There are five or six teams tied for third place right now, so every game the rest of the way is a must-win,” coach David MacWilliams said.

Despite dominating UMass on the offensive end, the Owls couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and one bad defensive play allowed the only goal of the game as the Minutemen defeated Temple, 1-0. MacWilliams’ team bounced back on Sunday, though, and pulled off a 1-0 win of their own in what the coach called the opposite of Friday’s game.

Temple’s offense outshot UMass, 13-to-five, but the Minutemen’s senior keeper Chris Peikos made sure the shutout stayed intact by making five saves. In the 59th minute, the Owls’ defense made its only costly mistake. The Owls failed to clear the ball out of their own zone, and UMass freshman forward Connor Devivo took advantage and scored on a deflection that floated over senior keeper Bret Mollon after a close rebound.

“I thought we played better and outplayed them,” MacWilliams said. “We possessed the ball a lot and created quality chances. We just came away short. They’re a very tough, disciplined team, and we knew it was going to be a one-goal game.”

Junior midfielder Tyler Witmer led Temple with four shots. UMass moved to 4-3-6 overall and 3-0-1 in conference play with the win.

After the loss Friday, Sunday’s game against Rhode Island was that much more important. The Rams seemed like the opponents Temple needed, having not won a game in more than a month. But the Owls struggled and played a sloppy game, until sophomore midfielder Andrew Dodds scored the lone goal only seconds after he received a caution by the referee.

Dodds’ goal came in the 65th minute, when he dribbled down the left side, missed a shot and then scooped up his own rebound and ripped a shot that beat Rams junior keeper Peyton Warwick.

In a very physical and desperate game, both teams played fairly even as the scrappy Rams managed 10 shots, but Mollon perserved his fifth shutout of the season as Temple won, 1-0.

“It was almost the reverse of Friday’s game in the sense that they had more opportunities than us, and we were fortunate to score. It was a very scrappy game that we had to win because we’re fighting for our life, and we came through,” MacWilliams said. “It wasn’t pretty, but the team came through.”

Witmer and Dodds paced the team with three shots each. Temple improved to 5-7-2 overall and 3-2 in conference, while Rhode Island fell to 2-10-2 overall and 0-4-1 in conference.

In the A-10, only the Top 6 teams make the conference tournament, and Temple is currently in a five-way tie for third place with four games left, including two road games next weekend at Saint Louis and Charlotte. The Owls will likely need at least two or three wins to keep their chances alive.

“It’s going to come down to the wire,” MacWilliams said. “We’re going to need points next weekend, and we’ll probably need to win both home games too.”

Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at

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