It’s been awhile, but Temple will participate in the Atlantic Ten tournament for the first time in 10 years. The Owls (13-5-1) capped off the 2003 season Tuesday by defeating Philadelphia University 1-0, to finish in third place in the conference standings.
The win broke a two-game losing streak, and more importantly, provided the Owls with a positive performance on which to build after two difficult losses to conference rivals Rhode Island and Saint Joseph’s last weekend.
“We could have clinched the division title with those two games,” coach Dave MacWilliams said after the Saint Joseph’s loss. “More importantly, we could have gotten a post-season bye.”
The losses dropped Temple two spots in the standings, and as a result the Owls will play sixth-seeded George Washington in the first round of the 8-team conference tournament today in Richmond, Va.
Instead of a first-round bye, the Owls must defeat a competitive Colonials team if they want to advance. Had the Owls been able to defeat Rhode Island they would have been one of two teams to receive a free pass from the opening round.
While the Owls’ foresight does not extend beyond that game, MacWilliams doesn’t expect this postseason game (his first at Temple), to be his last.
“Since I started [coaching at Temple], we’ve said that we are recruiting kids that are in for the long run,” MacWilliams said. “The other teams are always doing it, always getting better. We hope to get better, whether by bringing in more talent or just maturing with experience. None of us want this to be a one-shot year.”
The Owls showed huge strides of improvement from last year when they went 6-13-1 and allowed 37 goals. With player development improving collectively the Owls yielded just 14 goals, due in large part to the Herculean effort of goalkeeper Patrick Hannigan.
Temple, relatively injury-free this season, was forced into making its first major adjustment of the season in the Saint Joe’s game, when leading scorer Nate Webb was suspended one game because of a red card he received the previous game at Rhode Island.
Temple and Saint Joseph’s were deadlocked, 0-0, until the 73rd minute of the game when Hawks senior Matt James launched the winning goal past Hannigan. The Owls were unable to tally a late goal en route to losing 1-0.
“Saint Joe’s just got one opportunity, and they finished it,” MacWilliams added, “so we have to keep George Washington’s opportunities down.”
MacWilliams does not expect any letdown from his squad when they take the field at Richmond for the tournament.
“We’ll be ready; the guys will be pumped. This just means we’ll have to win one extra game.”
Benjamin Wantanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.