Going into their final regular season match on Friday afternoon at the University of Houston, Temple University women’s soccer sat in sixth place in The American Athletic Conference standings. A win would’ve pushed them into the top four of the standings and to a possible trip to The American Athletic Conference Tournament on April 15 and 17.
But after a 3-0 loss to Houston (5-4-1, 2-4-0 The American), Temple’s (4-5-1, 2-5-1 The American) season ended, with the Owls expected to finish somewhere between sixth and ninth place in the final conference standings.
Normally, six teams qualify for the conference championship tournament, but The American announced in August 2020 the number would be reduced to four amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, anything is possible in the COVID-world we live in, but we cannot finish in the top four at this point,” said head coach Nick Bochette.
Houston dominated the first half of play and took a 2-0 lead after sophomore midfielder Madison Gear scored a goal in the 12th minute and freshman midfielder Caitlyn Matthews scored another in the 33rd minute. Houston peppered junior goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein in the first half with eight shots, forcing Stablein to make three saves.
Temple generated next to nothing offensively in the first half. The Owls had just one shot on goal in the 30th minute from senior midfielder Emma Wilkins, which Cougars freshman goalkeeper Mikaela Gracia saved easily.
“Credit to Houston for being really well-prepared and scoring a very good goal early on,” Bochette said. “We didn’t do enough to disrupt them and allowed them to be a little too comfortable. They found ways to hurt us, and we left ourselves with a lot of work to do in the second half.”
Temple came out in the second half trying to push the tempo offensively but never found success. Although the Owls had small bursts of momentum, Houston managed to shut down their entry passes and didn’t give up any shots near the goal.
“I thought we were excellent for nearly the entire second half,” Bochette said. “We put them under intense and consistent pressure defensively and created a half-dozen good chances on goal. Their goalkeeper made a couple fantastic saves and there were other chances we just didn’t put enough quality on to finish. Creating chances that are just a little bit out of reach or a little bit too far or too short has been the story of many of our near misses this year.”
In the 49th minute, Temple had an opportunity to cut the deficit in half when they were awarded a free kick right outside Houston’s penalty box. Freshman defender Róisín McGovern stepped up to take it, but her shot was blocked by Houston’s defensive wall.
Senior midfielder Arryana Daniels had a shot toward goal in the 59th minute, but it was a little too high and hit off of the crossbar.
With the clock winding down, Temple kept just two defenders back and pushed the rest of their players forward. After a clearaway by Houston’s defense in the 88th minute, Cougars senior forward Jazmin Grant picked the ball up and rushed up field and past Temple’s defense for a breakaway. Stablein came out of her net to defend Grant’s shot as best she could, but Grant’s shot got by her and trickled into the net for the 3-0 Houston lead.
“Their third goal meant very little to me,” Bochette said. “We had been pushing and attacking the entire half, and we had to leave ourselves vulnerable for one of their very dangerous forwards to get in behind us, which she did.”
With the loss, Temple’s season ended with a losing record for the fifth straight year.
“There’s no doubt that there was more intent in our play in the second half,” Bochette said. “We did everything right except score goals. I really can’t fault the effort and intensity, it was excellent.”