Coach Seamus O’Connor has tried to shower away the feeling of defeat numerous times since the regular season ended two weeks ago.
But he still feels branded by the team’s 3-16 record. He won’t be able to shake it until next season.
“I’m trying to look back on the car crash and figure out what the hell happened,” O’Connor said. “It’s the worst when you have a season like that because you just micro-manage everything.”
“You’re trying to figure what happened, where it wrong, what can you do differently, why it happened,” he added. “It’s been a lot of long hours.”
O’Connor, who has been Temple’s coach since 2013, built his program’s win total in each of his first three seasons.
But this season, O’Connor’s team took a different course. The Owls finished the year 3-16, the worst record of O’Connor’s career at Temple and the first time the program has had less than four wins in its 26-year history.
O’Connor said after over-analyzing this season, he’s ready to move on.
“It’s like all the different stages of mourning,” O’Connor said. “I’ve come to the acceptance stage, I’ve gone through all the bad stages and I’m at the acceptance stage now. Just accept it. It happened. There’s nothing I can do about it but learn from it and move on.”
From last weekend to Jan. 3, O’Connor and his coaches will be recruiting every week.
O’Connor left for Ireland last Friday night to watch five games and won’t return to the United States until Thursday. He added this weekend he’ll be going to the Junior College Finals in Florida for about four days.
In December, O’Connor will also take a trip to England. Associate head coach John Byford will recruit in California, and assistant coach Paula Jurewicz will recruit in Florida and Canada.
O’Connor said Temple’s biggest need for next season is a striker. After losing their top-two goal scorers from a year ago, the Owls couldn’t find a replacement this season.
Temple ranked last in the American Athletic Conference this year with 14 goals. Last year, the Owls scored 42 goals, triple this year’s total.
In 2003 and 2006, the Owls scored their lowest amount of goals as a team with 12 on the year.
Redshirt-junior forward Kayla Cunningham agreed that the offense needs to improve.
“Definitely shooting and scoring goals … just capitalizing on possessing the ball up until the final third and finally being able to finish it,” she said.
On top of dealing with about a half-dozen injuries this season, the Owls also had the most freshmen on the team since 2013.
Freshman defender Emily Keitel said the speed of the game was the biggest adjustment.
With a mix of injuries and new faces, O’Connor switched his backline a lot this season, forcing a lot of underclassmen to get significant amounts of playing time. Keitel played in 17 games, freshman midfielder Morgan Morocco played in 15 games and freshman forward Jules Blank played in all 19 games.
“A lot of them are older and have experience, just their awareness of the game,” Keitel said about the difference of facing the college competition. “They know when the ball is going to played, they know the right time to take a shot, they just know the game so well. Their soccer IQ is so high.”
This week, the Owls will start their offseason program with their assistant strength and conditioning coach Sam Whitney.
On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the Owls will lift and work on conditioning from 6 to 7 a.m. until finals week.
During winter break, Whitney will send the team a winter workout. Once the players return from break, they’ll resume their workouts until the spring.
Cunningham said despite their overall record, this season was one of her favorites and they’ll continue to develop as a team through the offseason in order to prepare for next season.
“Just knowing each other and playing for each other will help us so much,” Cunningham said. “Our sophomore class and junior class have an apartment on top and underneath each other, so we’re always over there. So just because we don’t have soccer, we all still hang out together.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Ignudo5.