Coach David MacWilliams needed to see Robert Sagel play just once.
“We’ve been out to the showcase games,” MacWilliams said. “From the first time I saw Robby, I said ‘I definitely want him in a Temple uniform.’”
Sagel has been a crucial member of an Owls team that is predicated on defense. In nine of their ten victories, they’ve posted a shutout.
“He’s brought a lot to us,” MacWilliams said. “He’s very composed, he’s got a great touch for a big man, he’s organized and he reads the game well. The U-20 National team is probably looking at him.”
In October, Top Drawer Soccer named Sagel one of five freshmen that have a possibility of making the Under-20 U.S.A. Men’s National Team.
Sagel, a native of Las Vegas, has been as good as advertised for Temple. The No. 65 ranked recruit by College Soccer News has started in every game for the Owls.
“I wanted to be able to come into a program and make an impact immediately,” Sagel said. “Trying to compete for a starting spot was important to me.”
Like many Division-I athletes, Sagel started playing at a young age. His dad tells him that he was three years old when he first started kicking a ball around.
“It’s a good ‘go-to’ sport to get into,” Sagel said. “It just stuck with me, and obviously I’m still playing so that says something.”
Las Vegas supplies the proper weather to play an outdoor sport year-round. Sagel, however, left home in his sophomore year of high school and finished his high school career at Shattuck St. Mary’s, a prep school in Faribault, Minn. He joined their United States Development Academy club team, a big upgrade in terms of competition that surely prepared him for collegiate athletics.
“It was a big step for me,” Sagel said. “Vegas had always been kind of my comfort zone. Having to leave home earlier than most, I had to step out of that comfort zone. It turned out for the best, I was able to improve and learn what it was like to kind of be ‘out of the den.’ It exposed me to the east coast and eventually brought me to Temple.”
Both Sagel and MacWilliams credit second-year assistant Brian Clarhaut as being instrumental in bringing Sagel to North Broad Street. Clarhaut joined MacWilliams’ staff last year after spending time at the University of Connecticut and Stevens Institute of Technology.
“When Brian Clarhaut came in we went over recruiting,” MacWilliams said. “I had talked about Robby being the first guy that I definitely wanted to be a part of this program. Brian did a great job talking to Robby and we brought him out for an official visit. He liked us, we liked him and the rest is history.”
Being a Top 65 recruit, Sagel had plenty of offers to choose from, especially schools on the west coast. After visiting Temple, he was ready for a new challenge.
“Having left home my sophomore year I was ready to expand my horizons,” Sagel said. “This was a good fit. Leaving Las Vegas for Minnesota allowed me to realize that I was a big-city boy. Philadelphia is a big city, [Temple’s] a big school and they take soccer seriously so it worked out well.”
Sagel has had the luxury of starting alongside three very good players on defense to help him through his freshman season. Another freshman, Stefan Mueller, has played in every minute for the Owls. Senior twins Nolan and Sawyer Hemmer join the two freshmen to complete a defense that, along with goalkeeper Dan Scheck, only allowed 0.98 goals per game during regular season conference play.
Sawyer Hemmer has been nothing short of impressed with Sagel’s transition to the collegiate game. It’s something he experienced himself just a few years back.
“He stepped in as a freshman and really had a presence on the back line for us,” Hemmer said. “From personal experience it’s hard to transition from club and high schools. It’s a completely different game.”
As a senior, Hemmer is relied on to be a leader, especially to younger players like Sagel and Mueller. It comes with the territory.
“[Nolan and I] kind of went through the same process,” Hemmer said. “They look at us to steer them the right way and to tell them what to do. They sort of follow in our path.”
Sagel’s production hasn’t been limited to just the defensive side of the field. He’s scored three goals and added an assist as well. Sagel’s seven points are good for fourth on the team.
Playing and learning at the side of two veteran players, like the Hemmer’s, is a valuable practice.
“The experience and winning mentality that they bring everyday helps with the transition,” Sagel said. “They’re relaxed and they’ve been in a groove for a long time so they make it easier.”