It’s been a long season for coach Seamus O’Connor.
After tough losses, he goes home and stuffs himself with gummy bears and ice cream until he gets a headache.
At 3-14, Temple is off to its worst start since O’Connor became coach in 2013 and the worst start as a team since 2008.
“It’s been really one of those years, it’s heartbreaking,” O’Connor said. “They give their best every single game. So, we just try to teach them and they can only control what they can control and learn from every single game.”
The Owls fought for 102 minutes against South Florida until they lost 1-0 in double overtime on Oct. 13. It was the eighth one-goal loss for the Owls this season. The team lost another one-goal game to Connecticut, then ranked No. 21 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, on Saturday at the Temple Sports Complex.
After a record-setting season in 2015, the Owls retooled their roster with 11 freshmen. But O’Connor wasn’t expecting to take a step backward in the final season for players like midfielder Elaine Byerley and Taylor Matsinger.
“I didn’t want it to be a rebuilding year,” O’Connor said. “I don’t want Elaine’s last year to be a rebuilding year, Taylor’s last year to be a rebuilding year. … It’s been disappointing because I expected to win and get into the playoffs.”
After losing nine seniors, the resurgence the program made under O’Connor has lost momentum.
In the 12 years before O’Connor became head coach, the Owls only had four seasons where they had more than five wins. They never won more than 50 percent of their games in that 12-year span.
Besides this season, O’Connor’s team has improved in the win column in three consecutive seasons. The Owls racked up six wins in 2013, 11 in 2014 and 12 in 2015.
Redshirt-junior forward Kayla Cunningham, who played on the team in 2014 and 2015, said this season has been discouraging, but there’s reason to be hopeful for next year.
“Honestly, it sucks really badly,” Cunningham said. “I think this is a rebuilding year for us. We have a lot of young players and next year, I think that all of the mistakes that we are making are very fixable. So, I think next year we can learn from those and we’ll have an older team and I think it will show on the field.”
With the 11 freshmen and multiple injuries to starting players, O’Connor has been forced to shuffle the starting lineup nearly every game. Fifteen different players have started at least one game this season.
But he too, like Cunningham, is optimistic about the team’s future.
“I think for the future we look really, really good,” O’Connor said. “We’re young, we’re learning a lot, I think the team is growing this year. I love their honesty. We do something bad, they learn from it and they move forward. … There’s no finger-pointing, there’s no, like, trying to blame. It’s a team.”
Tom Ignudo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ignudo5.