On Thursday, the Owls had the opportunity to do what no team in the American Athletic Conference had yet to accomplish this season: defeat the Central Florida Knights.
Yet, as the Owls found out in a 2-0 losss, the Knights have a talented squad from the top down.
Central Florida came into Thursday’s contest ranked No. 20 in NCAA Division I. Prior to Thursday’s matchup with Temple, UCF had outscored conference opponents, 13-1.
The Owls fell behind early when Central Florida scored off a corner within the first eight minutes of the game.
Temple held tough for the better part of the first half and found itself in several scoring opportunities. During the last five minutes of the period, the Owls seemed to be grabbing momentum going into the break.
However, the momentum shift was washed away when the Knights scored off another corner with nine seconds left in the period, and the Owls were unable to make a comeback in the second half.
Although, the shot differential ended 18-10 in favor of the visiting Owls, coach Seamus O’Connor said he liked his team’s ability to get scoring chances against a tough opponent like UCF.
“I mean you get 10 shots on a team like that, that’s a heck of a lot of shots and some of them were very wide open goals we should have scored on,” O’Connor said. “The set plays we should have scored on.”
Depth was something that separated the two teams, as O’Connor used only two substitutes in contrast to the Knights’ six. Seven Owls’ players played all 90 minutes of the contest.
“It’s unfortunate,” O’Connor said. “With so many injuries and having a young team, we just don’t have as many options as I would like off the bench.”
“This time of year, it is really starting to hurt us,” O’Connor added.
While it allowed 18 shots, eight of them on goal, the Temple defense was able to contain a UCF squad that came into the contesting averaging over three goals a game against conference opponents.
Besides their set pieces, the Knights’ offense struggled to find scoring chances. O’Connor said he sees Central Florida’s inability to score from the run of play as a positive his team can take away from the game.
“They didn’t score from the run of play which is great,” O’Connor said. “Set plays are always something you can correct. You can correct the runs. You can figure out who missed who and who did what.”
“It’s a tough one because we played so, so well,” O’Connor added. “To lose on two set plays is just so frustrating when it’s something you plan and you practice. But the good thing I take out of it, is it’s correctable.”
In the absence of injured Paula Jurewicz, freshman Gabriella McKeown has now started in four straight games for the Owls … The Knights are now 14-0-1 in conference play during the past two years. They have not lost a conference game since Oct. 12, 2012, when they were still playing in Conference-USA.
Owen McCue can be reached at email@example.com.