The Owls’ closed out their final weekend of play with four points.
Senior forward Niki Conn saw her soccer career in a Temple uniform come to an end after the Owls wrapped up their season with a double-overtime thriller against St. Bonaventure that ended in a scoreless tie on Sunday.
Last Friday the Owls snapped their three-game losing streak with a 1-0 win against Duquesne at home. Sophomore defender Karly O’Toole scored the lone goal on a penalty kick after Conn drew a call in the box. The shutout was the Owls’ fourth of the year and most since 2006.
But, Sunday was a game in which nobody could find the back of the net.
“I just couldn’t finish today,” Conn said. “I had a couple chances and looking back, it’s definitely going to bother me that I could’ve had one in my last game and I didn’t. I just really wanted to win today and unfortunately we couldn’t do that.”
The Owls were playing at La Salle for their Senior Day game instead of their usual home venue at Ambler Sports Complex due to inclement weather.
Solid defense and a few clutch stops from redshirt-junior goalkeeper Tara Murphy kept the Owls in the game and gave the offense a chance to win in their final game of the season.
“This was a great game,” coach Matt Gwilliam said. “They had chances, we had chances and it was a really exciting game.”
Despite 17 shots with 10 of them from Conn, Temple was unable to beat St. Bonaventure’s sophomore goalkeeper Megan Junker, who recorded eight saves.
Conn was one of five seniors to play her last game in a Temple uniform, the others being forward Becky Bently and defenders Amanda Vogelman, Tiia Kuokka, and Samantha Farlow.
“My time here at Temple has been great,” Conn said. “We didn’t get the results we wanted all four years that I was here, but with my teammates, the coaches and the friendships that I’ve had during my time here, my experience here was fantastic.”
“I love playing soccer and I loved the people I played with. It doesn’t get better than that,” Conn added.
Conn, who may return as a forwards coach next year, left a legacy behind. Conn led the team in goals during her four-year career.
“I’m proud of her,” Gwilliam said of Conn. “To put the kind of effort in that she did [Sunday] and to come so close to scoring every time, she was great just like she’s been for us all year and she’ll definitely be missed.”
When asked to assess the season for his Owls, Gwilliam didn’t hesitate to state the obvious about the way his first season went with Temple.
“This was a very up and down year,” Gwilliam said. “We started off playing really well this year and then hit a rough patch, bounced back, and hit another rough patch and ended up bouncing back in the last weekend of the year when we were out of playoff contention.”
“I like to look at the ending of seasons and this year we got four points at the end of the year with basically nothing to play for,” Gwilliam added. “I can’t ask for more than that. I’m proud of them with the way they showed a fight today and didn’t give up against a team in St. Bonaventure that’s going to the A-10 playoffs.”
Although the season is now over, Gwilliam said there is work to be done with a team that has had some kind of a losing stigma in recent years.
“Right now I’m focusing on moving this group forward in the offseason,” Gwilliam said. “It’s a new beginning for Temple soccer. They’re going to see new things in this offseason and they’re going to start working right away.”
“As a Division I athlete, you don’t take time off,” Gwilliam added. “We’re going to take about a week to 10 days to get them rested and healed up, but then we’re going to get right back at it because we have work to do. Everyone’s going to work with the conditioning aspect of the game during the course of this offseason and will also work on building our program.”
The biggest task that this team will face is replacing the leadership of this group’s seniors, including Conn.
“I’m hoping that these kids will model after [Conn],” Gwilliam added. “With her attitude and how she carries herself, she’s a great model and someone who I would have liked to have for four years. She leaves big shoes to fill and I hope at least one player steps into the role she had and fills those shoes.”
As far as next season is concerned, the way that this season played out will certainly fuel the fire for next year’s team.
“We set a goal to get into the A-10 tournament and we didn’t achieve that goal,” Gwilliam said. “It’s disappointing not to be in the playoffs, but it leaves a taste in your mouth and it gives us something to work towards. We want to be successful and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be.”
“Every member of our team is dedicated to being successful and we’re going to do it. The work starts now,” Gwilliam added.
Drew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.