For the men’s soccer team, playing at Saint Joseph’s Finnesey Field would be the equivalent of playing on the surface in the now-imploded Veteran’s Stadium.
Brutal. Bone shattering. Not safe.
“It’s like playing on cement,” junior midfielder Tony Donatelli said.
“This turf’s pretty bad,” senior midfielder Steven Wacker added.
Coach David MacWilliams was a bit more descriptive.
“You can bounce the ball and it will go up and over your head,” he said. “It’s a crazy game, it’s not even like playing soccer on that.”
“That” meant artificial turf, the surface on which the Owls will play in their final regular season game this weekend at St. Joe’s.
The day after playing on artificial turf gives your body a hangover. Ankles throb. Backs ache. Knees are burnt and beat up.
And to make matters worse, if the Owls are to come out on top in next week’s Atlantic Ten championship at host George Washington University, they will probably have to win three straight games on Fieldturf.
MacWilliams and company prefer grass. It’s gentler on the limbs.
The Owls are coming off consecutive wins on turf at George Washington and Richmond over the weekend. And a win against the Hawks would give Temple plenty of momentum when they head down to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
All that turf talk will be pushed aside.
“At this point in the season it doesn’t matter. We’ll play on anything right now,” Donatelli said. “To be in the position we’re in, turf really doesn’t matter. We’ve just got to play and not worry about the situation.”
Temple finds itself in a situation similar to what it faced last season.
The Owls went into the A-10 tournament as the No. 3 seed, stormed the field, and eventually fell to Rhode Island in the title match.
Now, after winning their last five of six games, the Owls are again staring at a No. 3 seeding, unless they beat the Hawks and Xavier upsets Dayton, which would give Temple the No. 2 seed and a highly coveted first-round bye.
But that’s not likely to happen. The Flyers are in place for a No. 2 seed in the tournament.
So that scenario makes this Sunday’s game at St. Joe’s more meaningful, because if the Owls hold the No. 3 slot and win their first-round game, they will run into Dayton in the semifinals. Dayton beat Temple, 2-1, earlier this season. But there is a sense of optimism hovering over the team. And all the players have to do is look back to last postseason for a reason to have a chip on their shoulders.
“Guys should have confidence going in,” Wacker said. “We did it last year, and we can do it again.”
But MacWilliams admitted this year hasn’t been anything close to last year’s successful campaign. At times this season, injuries have pushed the Owls back, although their longest losing streak of the season only ran three games. With injuries to forward Nate Webb and leading scorer Stephen Bristow, the Owls have yet to peak.
“It’s been kind of a frustrating season because we really haven’t had our true team out there,” MacWilliams said.
The team was expecting to practice on the turf at Geasey Field this week in preparation for St. Joe’s and the A-10 championships, but MacWiliams canned that plan because of the wear and tear. He said the decision is “a little bit of a trade off.”
Regardless, the vibe surrounding the team is different from last year. They understand the importance of heading into the tournament on a high note.
“The mentality is a little bit different,” Donatelli said. “We’re expecting a little bit more this year that we were last year. Hopefully everybody takes this seriously and we’re focused for the tournament.”
Chris Silva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.