Senior midfielder Tyler Witmer hopes other scorers on the offense emerge.
Four years ago, men’s soccer senior midfielder Tyler Witmer described himself as a “loose cannon.”
He wasn’t a distraction off the field, but instead a player that had yet to learn how to properly channel his aggressiveness onto the field. Three productive seasons later, the senior has established himself as a leader for the men’s soccer team as his ability to find the net drives the Owls’ offense.
Last season, Witmer started each game and tallied five goals to lead the Owls in scoring for a second consecutive season. Witmer said, as a younger player, he tried to do as much as possible, which ended up draining him. Witmer still employs that work ethic, but now is able to mesh it together with the knowledge that he said he gained from coach Dave MacWilliams, an alumnus.
“Personally, what I’ve learned has gotten me to where I am now,” Witmer said. “And the style of our play, the way our team plays, helps me out a lot. It gets me a lot of scoring opportunities, a lot of attacking soccer.”
Through the first three games of the season, Witmer has yet to record a goal. Instead of allowing frustration to creep in, Witmer said he was able to reflect on the fact he didn’t have to score after the Owls downed Holy Cross 4-1 on Friday night. He said he realized it was “awesome” that he wasn’t relied on to score as the offense’s ability to spread out the attack will give opposing defenses difficulty in stopping the Owls.
Along with Witmer, the Owls’ offense relies heavily on junior forward Cody Califore. In the first three games, Califore has scored three goals to lead the Owls. MacWilliams said he expects a balanced attack that will feature other players stepping up on the offensive end and taking the pressure off the front two.
Witmer said the Owls’ current scoring tandem reminds him of his freshman and sophomore season, when the Owls featured J.T. Noone, who led the team in assists in both his junior and senior season.
“It’s having another player that brings an extra level to the game, and adds another aspect to the game,” Witmer said of Califore. “It doesn’t get much better than that. He’s a great player and everybody knows that. [We’re] very good friends and we work well together.”
MacWilliams said the Owls expect Witmer to be a goal scorer and will rely on his ability to win games. He said that Witmer has also become more of a playmaker in his career at Temple, as the coach said Witmer came to the Owls primarily as just a goal scorer. The focus that other teams put on Witmer leads to more opportunities for his teammates, MacWilliams said.
“I’ve been a leading goal scorer here the last couple years, but at the same time I haven’t scored a goal yet,” Witmer said. “I’m not upset about that at all, I enjoy that the whole team is scoring goals. That’s what’s going to make us good.”
It was Witmer’s capacity to both score and create goals that caught MacWilliams’ attention while Witmer attended Conrad Weiser High School, near Reading, Pa. As a senior, he led his school with 15 goals and 16 assists. He also served as the placekicker for the football team.
“He was always a hard worker,” MacWilliams said. “He works very hard on the field and he loves scoring goals.”
This season Witmer is one of just three seniors on an Owls team that has a sense of unity, Witmer said. Instead of being someone who sits atop the team’s hierarchy, Witmer said he sees himself as an equal.
Witmer said each player has his own role on the team, and the balance of responsibility leads to great team chemistry. MacWilliams said Witmer leads by example both on and off the field.
“I look at everyone as an equal,” Witmer said. “It’s a different aspect because I’ve always had people to look up to, but it helps to have everyone be so equal. It’s great for our team that it’s not just one person.”
Playing under MacWilliams has helped Witmer develop as player. Witmer said he sees the coach as someone he can constantly learn from. MacWilliams is able to give the senior advice due to his vast experience as a former professional player.
“He’s seen the pros. He’s seen a lot of different experiences that all of us would like to see one day as well,” Witmer said. “And if I have a question he’s there to answer it. He’s there to give me pointers and he’s there to work for the team.”
Matt Breen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.