Owls land Top 25 spot behind defense

The men’s soccer team is ranked in the NSCAA poll for the first time since 1997.

Alex Cagle passes the ball against Villanova Sept. 16. The Owls won 2-1. | Geneva Heffernan TTN
Alex Cagle passes the ball against Villanova Sept. 16. The Owls won 2-1. | Geneva Heffernan TTN

For coach David MacWilliams, attention comes with the territory.

After defeating Yale 2-0 Sept. 13, Temple moved to No. 23 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Division I Sept. 15 poll—the team’s first appearance in the poll since 1997.

“Any time you get some national recognition, you get a bull’s eye on your jersey,” MacWilliams said. “But we’re going to have to deal with that. I think [the ranking] is a credit to the players and how hard they’ve worked and how hard the staff has worked during the offseason to get things right and move in a positive direction.”

The Owls, who finished 2-14-2 in 2014 and placed last in the American Athletic Conference with a 1-6-1 mark, received three votes in the Sept. 8 NSCAA poll after defeating Penn State—ranked No. 13 in the Sept. 15 poll.

Temple also has wins against Manhattan College and Rider University. The Owls defeated the University of Pennsylvania Sunday to move to 6-0-1 overall.

Redshirt-sophomore goalkeeper and first-year starter Alex Cagle said the key has been Temple’s defensive consistency. Through seven games and 666 total minutes, the Owls have conceded three goals averaging 0.43 goals against per game—which is ranked No. 10 in Division I.

“[The defense] has really been locking it down and not giving opposing teams too many shots on target or offensive chances,” Cagle said. “It’s really helped the whole team because we can rely on the fact that we know we have a little bit of protection and can take risks up top.”

Junior defenders Matt Mahoney and Carlos Moros Gracia and sophomore midfielder Brendon Creed, among others, make up the Owls’ back line.

“I think the team’s confidence is at an all-time high,” Mahoney said. “Not many teams in the country are undefeated up to this point, and I think it’s something we’re very proud of.”

MacWilliams said fans are starting to get excited about the soccer program again.

Seven hundred people attended the team’s victory against Penn State. Last season’s highest attendance at a home game was 333 at the Owls’ 2-1 overtime loss to Tulsa Oct.25.

“When people are able to come out and watch and see us and how good of a team we are, I think it just brings them back wanting to see more,” MacWilliams said. “I think we’ve gotten back to two years ago when we were very difficult to break down. We frustrate teams, and it’s tough to get many chances on us.”

With 2014 fresh in their minds, the players are making sure to stay motivated and avoid complacency despite the strong start.

“We know the season we had last year,” Mahoney said. “We are always bringing up in training that we are creatures of habit as coach Mac says, so we have to train how we play games, otherwise there will be a let up.”

Dan Newhart can be reached at dan.newhart@temple.edu or on Twitter @dannynewhart.

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