O’Connor schedules road-heavy season

The squad went more than a month without enjoying a home game.

Shauni Kerkhoff covers the ball during the team’s 3-2 win against Tulsa Thursday. Kerkhoff had five saves in the win. Paul Klein |TTN
Shauni Kerkhoff covers the ball during the team’s 3-2 win against Tulsa Thursday. Kerkhoff had five saves in the win. Paul Klein |TTN

More than a month had elapsed since Temple had last played a regulation contest on its home field.

The Owls’ two games at the Ambler Sports Complex this past weekend – in which they won one game and tied another – was their first taste of home action since a 3-0 win against Mount St. Mary’s on Aug. 24.

Between the Mount St. Mary’s win and the home match against the University of Tulsa on Thursday, the Owls set a school record with a seven-game winning streak and won their first conference game, all on the road.

The team has thrived away from Ambler this year. Along with an overall mark of 9-3-1, it has a 7-3 record on opposing ground.

Coach Seamus O’Connor said he is stunned at what his team has been able to accomplish so far.

“Being on the road and having the start we had, it just doesn’t make sense to me,” O’Connor said.

By the end of the season, Temple will have played 13 road games and only six home contests.

O’Connor said this was by design as he was “looking for the correct balance of teams to play.”

In addition, three of the road games were against city schools in St. Joseph’s, La Salle and Drexel, which members of the team said are like home games, as they sit closer than the Ambler Campus to Main Campus.

The road match-ups were scheduled, in part, in an effort to bring the team closer together. O’Connor wanted his team to “develop that, ‘Us against the world mentality,’ you need in the conference.”

He believes his team is a tighter knit group because of the time they spent together.

“They’re ridiculously close this year,” O’Connor said. “They would do anything for the program and for each other. I think that comes from being on the road.”

Despite the benefits it has brought, traveling every week has presented challenges for O’Connor’s team.

Junior defender Erin Lafferty, who scored a goal in the Owls’ conference home opener, welcomed the return home.

“It was nice to finally be back at our home field and not have to worry about all the disadvantages that come with traveling,” Lafferty said.

Junior goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff said she liked the road trips with her teammates, but like Lafferty she acknowledged there are disadvantages of playing away from home.

“I enjoy getting the chance to spend time with my teammates on the road and I love getting the opportunity to travel,” Kerkhoff said. “That being said, being on the road for a month straight is difficult because you miss a lot of class.”

In the American Athletic Conference, schools are spread out all over the country. Having visited Cincinnati and East Carolina already this year, the Owls will take a trip to Texas to play Southern Methodist and Houston next week.

The long travel can be especially draining and difficult as the Owls saw last week in a 2-0 loss to East Carolina, Kerkhoff said.

“I think all the travel kind of zapped our energy and we didn’t play to our full potential,” she said of the game.

Kerkhoff added that the fan bases of the schools in The American can also play a factor in the games.

“The teams in The American have huge fan bases that show up to the games,” Kerkhoff said. “These crowds can get a bit rowdy and at times they you a bit, so it’s just a matter of tuning them out and focusing on the game in front of you.”

While his players were happy to be back home, O’Connor said he felt uneasy about how his team would adjust to a new routine and schedule.

 “I’m scared, to be honest,” O’Connor said. “When you’re on the road you have complete control over your players. When you’re at home you have no control.”

Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue@temple.edu                                      

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