The Owls had half a dozen scoring chances on their senior night. They only needed one.
Temple (5-8-4, 2-3-1 American Athletic Conference) shut out Tulsa (5-9-2, 1-5-0 American) 1-0 Saturday night to secure a spot in the 2018 American Athletic Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament.
“We’ve worked really hard [this season], and I think that today was a good win,” coach Brian Rowland said. “Winning can become a habit, and I think we have to keep approaching things the same way so that we can keep building momentum into the postseason.”
The tournament matchups will be determined at the end of the regular season, which concludes in the first week of November.
“I think there’s [still] plenty to play for,” Rowland said. “There’s positionings within the conference still up for grabs.”
Junior forward Lukas Fernandes provided the Owls’ first threatening shot in the fourth minute of play. Fernandes finished the game with four shots, three of which were on goal, and the only goal of the match.
Fernandes scored in the 27th minute after freshman forward Elias Hellgren Villegas won the ball from the Tulsa defense and passed to Fernandes alone on the left. Fernandes shifted the ball away from junior goalkeeper Bryson Reed and sent the ball into the open net.
Junior forward Justin Hahn also threatened to score during the game, first when he put the ball off his head and just inches outside the right post in the 12th minute of play. Hahn finished with three shot attempts and is second on the team with 19 shots and 11 shots on goal.
While the win is satisfying, Rowland sees room for improvement.
“Part of our growth is being able to finish games off,” Rowland said. “We have to control the game better…I think we had chances to make it more of a relaxed finish to the game,” Rowland said.
Junior midfielder Nick Sarver called the end of the game “hectic” because Temple held such a slim lead.
“I think [scoring more] definitely would have taken a little bit more pressure off, and also I think would have taken away from their push a little bit more,” Sarver said. “Being down two goals with five minutes, compared to being down one, they would have probably counted themselves out at that point, had we been up two goals. But I think we did well for being up one goal.”
Sarver is one of Temple’s defensive midfielders, along with senior Hermann Doerner and freshman Andres Charles-Barrera.
“The role that [Hermann] and Andres play doesn’t get on the stat sheet very often,” Rowland said. “They do so much work: playing in the middle of the [field], breaking things up, controlling the tempo of our team. Basically, they’re the center cogs of our team and those things don’t always end up on the scoresheet. Both Hermann and Andres I thought did another fantastic job.”
Temple’s defense was strong for the full 90 minutes. Rowland’s defensive unit withstood pressure from the Golden Hurricane that ramped up as time wound down.
Junior goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre made four saves for his second shutout in a row and fourth all season.
Three of Tulsa’s four shots of the second half came in the last five minutes.
“Tulsa, they started committing numbers forward and certainly were playing a bit more direct,” Rowland said. “They’ve got some good technical players that asked some questions of us.”
In response to the pressure, Temple’s players remained in their defensive third. When Temple got the ball, players elected to clear the ball as far downfield as possible to force Tulsa to regroup.
The Owls’ final regular season game is on Nov. 2 at Southern Methodist in Dallas. The last time the two teams played, SMU eliminated Temple from the 2017 American Athletic Conference Tournament in a 4-0 shutout. SMU is also guaranteed a place in the 2018 Tournament.
“I’m excited to play SMU because the last time we played them it was last year, our last game, and it wasn’t a great outcome,” Sarver said. “So we have some business, some revenge to give to them.”