After dropping its past two conference games, Temple University women’s soccer knew its margin for error against the University of Houston was thin if they wanted to earn a spot in the American Athletic Conference Tournament for the first time since the 2018-19 season.
The Owls (5-5-3, 2-3, The American) defeated the Cougars (10-4-2, 2-2-1, The American) 2-1 at the Temple Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Temple struck first when junior forward Hailey Gutowski scored from right in front of the goal off of an assist from freshman forward Sumaya Togba in the 24th minute.
Despite being outshot 10 to three in the first half, the Owls created more quality chances on goal, said head coach Nick Bochette.
“I was really happy with our first half,” Bochette said. “The chances we gave up were very reasonable and I felt that we were in a good place defensively for every one of them.”
The Owls came back again at the 60-minute mark when Gutowski beat the Cougars’ defense on the edge and sent a ball toward the goal that hit the post before bouncing in. It was Gutowski’s second goal of the game and fifth of the season.
The Cougars finally got on the board in the 86th minute after sophomore midfielder Maddie Dichiara scored from inside the penalty box on a ball that got by Owls’ junior goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein.
The Cougars applied heavy offensive pressure in the final three minutes but could not score, due to a strong effort from the Owls’ defensive line.
“It was a bend not break effort,” Bochette said. “The back line was very good and how strong they were, how many shots they blocked and how many balls they didn’t allow to get behind them was a testament to how great the whole backline played.”
The Owls have moved up to sixth in the AAC standings following the victory. They will need to hold their position in order to qualify for the conference tournament.
“We know the quality of who we are playing and who we still have to play,” Bochette said. “Today we proved to ourselves how good we can be when we take care of our chances and fully commit to what it takes to compete at this level.”
The Owls will look to continue to climb the standings and build their postseason case when they travel to take on conference rival Southern Methodist University (8-2-1, 2-1-1 The American) on Oct. 20 at 8 p.m.