The women’s soccer team lost to Xavier and Atlantic Ten Conference-leading Dayton, falling to last in the A-10.
Two torn anterior cruciate ligaments, a broken kneecap and a muscle pull: A team can withstand one injury – maybe even two or three – but five starters out with injuries creates a tough obstacle for any team to overcome. And this season, it’s something the women’s soccer team has struggled with.
The Owls were shut out at Ambler by Dayton, 3-0, on Friday and by Xavier, 1-0, on Sunday in a double-overtime thriller. It was the first time all season the Owls failed to score a goal, and now they have to go back on the road with a bad taste in their mouths, as they fell to last place in the Atlantic Ten Conference with a 5-9-1 overall record and 0-4-1 record in conference play.
“We felt confident coming in to the weekend despite the injuries. We had a good game plan,” coach David Jones said. “It was just a tough way to lose. It was a pretty disappointing weekend.”
On Friday, the team was overmatched by the first-place Dayton Flyers, who outshot Temple, 18-5. Jones said the Owls went with a defensive game plan to try to withstand Dayton’s powerful offense. They were able to keep it close and very competitive, thanks to several saves by junior goalkeeper Tara Murphy, until Dayton struck in the 38th minute when the Flyers’ leading scorer and sophomore midfielder Colleen Williams assisted senior defender Allison Giner on her third goal of the season.
“Keeping it close was giving us confidence so that first goal kind of knocked the wind out of us,” Jones said. “That was our only mistake of the half, so it was a tough way to go into the half.”
Williams then added her own goal in the 54th, and freshman midfielder Juliana Libertin added the last tally only six minutes later to put the game out of reach as the Owls continued to try to fight an uphill battle in the second half. Temple struggled to ignite any type of offense as it mustered just five shots and didn’t really challenge Dayton’s keeper. Sophomore forward Kate Yurkovic led the team with two shots.
The injuries, a nationally ranked opponent and blustery weather combined to topple Temple. Dayton improved to 13-2 overall and 5-0 in the A-10.
Jones’ team looked to bounce back on Sunday in Ambler against Xavier and battled them for more than 100 minutes but was unable to capitalize on numerous occasions. The Owls outshot the Musketeers, 15-13, and had several chances to score in the first half as the offense had three breakaways and two shots hit the crossbar, but they just couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the back of the net.
“We definitely played well enough to win. We limited their chances, played well defensively and didn’t make many mistakes,” Jones said. “Our offense just let us down. They had lots of chances and just couldn’t put one away.”
The heartbreak goal came in the 103rd minute, when Xavier senior forward Carly Wenzel nailed a direct kick from 35 yards out and put it in the upper-90, beating Murphy. Xavier improved to 7-8 overall and 3-3 in conference play. Junior forward Niki Conn, Temple’s leading scorer on the season, led the team with seven shots despite playing through a leg-muscle injury throughout the weekend.
Temple’s lack of luck with injuries takes a lot of the credit for the inconsistent season as younger, inexperienced players have been asked to fill in for injured starters. Two of the starting back four, senior midfielder Meridith Crowell and junior midfielder Tiia Kuokka, both tore their ACLs in the same week back in nonconference play, and the team’s top freshman, forward Jenna Dekovitch, broke her kneecap early in the season as well.
“If we were full strength, or even close to it, we would have better results,” Jones said.
“We’re pretty resilient. Each week, no matter what, we’re going to battle,” Jones added. “We have a great group of kids who put in the work. We know we’re in every game, and we have the chance to win. Our girls are Division-I athletes – they’re not going to back down, and they deserve credit for staying tough.”
The Owls go back on the road, in search of their first win in nearly a month, against Massachusetts on Friday and Rhode Island on Sunday.
Brandon Stoneburg can be reached at email@example.com.