Owls face increased competition

Temple remain undefeated at home.

This isn’t the Atlantic 10 Conference anymore.

That truth was obvious by looking at the Owls’ two debut opponents in the American Athletic Conference. After getting shutout Saturday 3-0 against No. 17 ranked Louisville, Temple hosted No. 24 ranked Connecticut Wednesday afternoon at the Ambler Sports Complex.

Despite being outplayed for much of the game, and outshot 19-9, the Owls battled to a 1-1 draw. After starting slow and allowing UConn to dictate the action, a draw viewed by the team as a solid result.

“Honestly I think we gave them a little too much respect early on, they had the UConn name,” senior defenseman Sawyer Hemmer said. “Then we realized we could play with them and we slowed the pace down and played our game.”

Freshman defenseman Robert Sagel continued his strong start to the season for the Owls, scoring in the 79th minute with a header off of a cross on a set piece from sophomore Jared Martinelli.

The Owls were on the defensive for much of the game, a tribute to the great skill of the Connecticut players. Strong play from goalkeeper Dan Scheck and a big effort from the Owls back line kept Temple in the game all afternoon.

“Our guys battled all day,” coach David MacWilliams said. “They executed the game plan, we wanted to take away [UConn’s] athleticism by cutting the field in half.”

The Owls will need to get used to executing game plans and taking away opponents’ athleticism as they get into the full swing of The American schedule. Opponents like Saint Joseph’s and Duquesne have been replaced with the likes of South Florida and Memphis, not to mention the nationally ranked squads Temple has already played.

“We just need to stick together,” senior captain Ryan Bradbury said. “Sometimes there are different starting lineups for certain games, everyone needs to accept their role and realize this is a team thing.”

For the first time all season the Owls conceded a goal at home. But the undefeated record at the Ambler Sports Complex is still intact.

“A road trip like Louisville is tough,” Hemmer said. “We responded well here at Ambler where we haven’t lost yet, we use that to our advantage.”

Getting what will most likely be their two most difficult games out of the way quickly, the Owls are able to look ahead to the new schedule, not before playing one last non-conference game against Drexel this weekend.

“We just need to keep an even keel and balance,” MacWilliams said. “We didn’t get too down after the Louisville game. These games are all going to be close.”

Jeffrey Neiburg can be reached at jeffneiburg@yahoo.com or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.

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