It wasn’t that men’s soccer coach Dave MacWilliams was surprised his team won. But what took him off-guard was the blowout fashion in which it occurred.
Early goals by Nate Webb and Tony Donatelli set the tone for the Owls as they bowled over city-rival Saint Joseph’s, 6-1, on Saturday night.
“Usually all games between inner-city teams seem to be pretty close,” MacWilliams said. “I do know that St. Joe’s has a lot of freshmen and we were on our game.”
Donatelli added two assists and the sizeable lead allowed MacWilliams to rest most of his starters in the second half. Most of the reserves saw extended playing time in the second half as Matt Maher netted two goals and Kevin Gallagher added another.
MacWilliams said his team will try to ride the momentum from this win into the Atlantic Ten tournament, which begins this week. The tournament will take place at George Washington University.
“Anytime you win convincingly you want to build off that and it’s a confidence booster,” he said. “It’s a good thing we got that lead and were able to rest our starters. They’re going to need all the rest they can get.”
The Owls (10-7-2, 7-2-2), who clinched a No. 3 seed, will face another city rival in La Salle, the No. 6 seed, this Thursday in the first round of play. If the Owls win they will face No. 2 seed Dayton in the semifinals. The top seed is regular-season champion Duquesne.
MacWilliams is not thrilled to see his squad face La Salle.
“It’s another city rival and we know it’s going to be tough,” he said. “I was hoping not play them because I know the coach over there.”
MacWilliams said, had his squad not been victimized by injuries, they would have probably done better.
“I think we had quite a few injuries that held us back,” he said. “At times we played without our starting backs and we played a few games without our top scorers.”
One of those key injuries was to Webb, considered to be the team’s top scoring option. He missed the first 10 games of the season with nagging back problems and has been playing through pain since returning. He finished the season with three goals and two assists.
But let’s not overlook the win over the Hawks. With the victory, Temple earned double-digit wins in consecutive seasons, something the program has never accomplished before. Moreover, it clinched its second straight conference playoff berth. The last time the Owls earned back-to-back playoff appearances was 1989 and 1990.
The win over the Hawks also gave them their record seventh conference win of the season, which broke the old mark of six.
So with winning becoming the norm for the Owls, has it changed their attitude going into the postseason?
“I think we’re still very excited to be where we’re at,” MacWilliams said. “This is our expectation, we want to compete. We want to be in the playoffs and head to the NCAAs.”
A less-than stellar record will most likely keep the Owls from getting an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. So the realization has already sunk in for the need to win the A-10 crown to earn an automatic bid.
Jason Haslam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.