Through three games of American Athletic Conference play, Temple’s greatest strength has become its most glaring weakness.
The Owls (8-5, 0-3 The American), who outscored opponents 31-8 in non-conference play, have suffered three straight 1-0 road losses to conference foes Connecticut, No. 20 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Sept. 25 coaches’ poll, No. 18 South Florida and reigning conference champion Central Florida (6-5-1, 1-3 The American).
The last time Temple scored was two weeks ago, when senior striker Kelly Farrell recorded the first three-goal performance of her career in a 3-1 victory against Saint Joseph’s Sept. 20. This current stretch is the Owls’ longest scoring drought since 2013.
“We’ve played the three toughest teams probably in the league, and we’ve been so close, and we didn’t give those three teams that many problems last year,” coach Seamus O’Connor said. “It was more trying to stop them from scoring, whereas this year they’re trying to stop us from scoring, so in a year it’s been a huge difference.”
Temple’s winless road trip began Sept. 24 in Orlando, Florida, where the Owls recorded a season-low four shots and were downed by a first-half goal from Central Florida’s redshirt-sophomore midfielder Kayla Adamek in the 43rd minute.
Three days later, the Owls’ offense totaled seven shots with two on goal against South Florida, but a first-half goal from the Bulls decided the outcome once again.
The Owls’ most difficult three-game stretch of the season came Friday night in Storrs, Connecticut, where Temple battled torrential rain and The American’s preseason favorite. UConn junior forward Rachel Hill’s 37th-minute goal was the difference, as the Owls were outshot 19-10 in their third consecutive defeat.
“We knew the number of chances would go down once we started conference, but we’ve created great chances,” O’Connor said. “The girls have to finish them. That’s what it’s coming down to. It’s like a quarterback who’s not finding the receiver or a receiver who’s dropping the ball.”
Before conference play began, O’Connor said the Owls agreed two goals was an ideal benchmark to earn a win in The American based on the team’s play style.
So far, Temple has recorded more than two shots on goal in one of its three conference games, while allowing 19 shots from its opposition in each of those games.
Freshman goalkeeper Jordan Nash has kept the Owls close in conference games with 20 combined saves on 57 shots. Nash has recorded at least six saves in her last five starts.
With a two-game home stand on the horizon, senior defender Paula Jurewicz said the Owls have learned from their last three losses.
“The biggest thing we took from these last two weeks has been confidence,” Jurewicz said. “We know we can stick with the top teams in the country. We just need to finish our opportunities.”
Tom Reifsnyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Reifsnyder.