Michael Samnik is still looking for the best place in Philadelphia to get a cheesesteak.
The sophomore goalkeeper enjoyed the one he ate from Dalessandro’s in Roxborough, but he believes that the ultimate cheesesteak, his favorite food, is still out there.
“I love a good cheesesteak,” Samnik said. “If anyone wants to hit me up with a good shop, let me know.”
When Samnik transferred from the University of North Georgia to Temple, cheesesteaks weren’t the first thing on his mind, but they were a welcome bonus.
Another bonus has been the playing time he’s gotten in his first season. Despite joining a team with redshirt senior Alex Cagle, a goalie who started 36 of the Owls’ 37 games the past two years. Samnik has started nine of Temple’s 16 games.
“When I was getting recruited, they actually said there’s a senior that will be playing ahead of me,” Samnik said. “Then just [through] a series of unfortunate events, Cagle got injured, and I got in. I think I’ve been doing well with my starting time.”
Coach David MacWilliams initially put Samnik in the starting lineup to try to switch things up because Temple was not playing as well as he wanted, MacWilliams said.
The Owls (8-7-1, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) had a 1-3-1 record when Samnik made his first start against Fairfield University on Sept. 16.
Temple, which allowed 15 goals in 18 games last season, had already allowed seven.
“I think we went through a period where we struggled early and we were looking for goals and we were looking to stop goals,” MacWilliams said. “We made some changes and then when Cagle got hurt, Samnik stepped in and he’s done a good job for us.”
The Owls lost to Fairfield, 2-0, and Cagle started the next two games. But he hasn’t been able to play since Sept. 23 against Connecticut after he suffered a concussion. Samnik took over as the starter.
Cagle is still injured, MacWilliams said, so Samnick will start on Saturday against South Florida. Temple needs to win the game to qualify for The American’s postseason tournament.
Since Cagle’s injury, Samnik is 6-2 and has a goals-against average of 0.99. He earned shutouts against Penn State on Sept. 27 and against Drexel on Oct. 3.
Samnik’s size 15 shoes and 6-foot-5-inch, 230-pound frame has helped him keep opponents from scoring in an 8-by-24 foot goal.
“My wingspan cuts down angles a lot, and that’s a big thing about goalkeeping is you’ve just got to know where the ball is and make sure you’re not giving up too much of one side of the goal versus the other,” Samnik said. “Being this tall sometimes makes it a little harder getting down to the low balls, but I think for my size, I’m pretty agile.”
The defense had to adjust to Cagle and Samnik’s different goalkeeping styles. But sophomore midfielder Nick Sarver, who plays on the back line, said the transition from defending with Cagle to Samnik has been easy.
“I think they all have attributes that, whether one’s more communicative, one’s better with his feet, distribution, so I think there’s little things,” MacWilliams said. “But I think for the most part, it isn’t a big adjustment. So it’s just knowing the strengths of the guy that’s in between the pipes.”
Along with Samnik’s size, MacWilliams said his calm disposition in net is one of his strengths. Instead of getting “rattled,” Samnik keeps control of the box and remains focused, which is not always an easy task, MacWilliams added.
“Probably the hardest part of being a goalkeeper is you’ve just got to stay locked in for the entire 90 minutes,” Samnik said. “You could go a whole game without getting a shot on you and then, like what happened in the Memphis game, get one shot on goal and they score to tie it with nine seconds left. So it’s just more mental than it is physical sometimes.”
To get in his zone before games, Samnik likes to be in the locker room and listen to music. His appreciation of country, however, is not common on the team, MacWilliams said. He added Samnik often jokes around with his teammates and has added to the team’s dynamic.
Samnik’s presence on and off the field allowed him to quickly integrate into the team after transferring from North Georgia, Sarver said.
“Samnik came right in and just felt right at home,” Sarver said. “I felt like I’d known him for years when I first got to meet him.”