Owls working on transition, health ahead of USF

There was one area the men’s soccer team worked on Wednesday afternoon in its preparation for the University of South Florida on Saturday night: the transition game.

“South Florida is a team that’s very good in transition,” coach David MacWilliams said. “We wanted to simulate a session where you’re keeping the ball, and then all of a sudden it’s played down to the other end of the field, and you have to get back behind the ball.”

Defending against a quick reversal of play will be key if the Owls are to win their first road match this fall. One of the key guys who could be back in Temple’s lineup is sophomore defender Stefan Mueller, who has missed the last three matches due to stomach pain.

MacWilliams said Mueller’s presence would greatly help come Saturday.

“We have to see how things go [this week],” MacWilliams said. “But if he’s able to play, it definitely strengthens our team.”

Freshman midfielder Filipe Liborio, who missed Temple’s last match against Cincinnati, was running around with a brace and also looks primed to play down in Florida.

In terms of the two Finnish players, freshmen forwards Olli Tynkkynen and Joonas Jokinen, MacWilliams said that Tynkkynen is closer to 100 percent than Jokinen, but didn’t rule out both of them playing at some capacity against USF.

 No. 22 USF looms

USF, which is currently ranked No. 22 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, carries a 5-3 overall record, and beat Connecticut 1-0 in an overtime win in its opening American Athletic conference match on Sept. 27.

When it comes to the Bulls, coach David MacWilliams said their tradition and overall quality makes them tough to play.

“They’re very quick and athletic,” MacWilliams said.  “They’re a tough team in transition, a tough team to break down … they’ve made the [NCAA Tournament seven] years in a row, so you’re going up against a lot of history and tradition there.”

The Bulls ended the Owls’ season last year by beating them 1-0 at Ambler in the first round of the American Athletic Conference tournament. MacWilliams said revenge will partially be a factor going into Saturday, but getting a result down in Florida is more important because of their non-conference results.

“Getting beat by them bothered us,” MacWilliams said.  “But I think right now, we’re in a stage where we just want to win games and get results … We just want to be able to play well and get a result down there.”

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Corbett Stadium.

Jokinen to miss time with pulled hamstring

Joonas Jokinen will miss seven to 10 days with a pulled hamstring, Temple’s assistant athletic trainer Nathan Quebedeaux said Friday at practice.

The injury occurred Wednesday in Temple’s 1-0 extra-time loss to Fordham when Jokinen booked up the left sideline, and then was clipped from behind by the Rams’ Tommy Garnot, who received a yellow card for the foul.
The freshman forward out of Helsinki, Finland, has scored one goal in five matches this season.
Quebedeaux said that although Temple could send Jokinen out to play without this recovery time, they are taking “precautionary” measures to ensure he is ready once American Athletic conference play starts on Sept. 27 against Cincinnati.
“We’re letting him recover so he can recover and get stronger to prepare for the American style of the game, which is rougher,” Quebedeaux said.

Owls to face Penn State

The men’s soccer team will travel upstate Friday to face off against Penn State, the No. 16 ranked team in the country, per the National Soccer Coaches Association of America coaches poll.

The Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Conference title last season and made it to the third round of NCAA tournament, before falling to New Mexico.  They have started the season with two victories, downing Oakland in their season opener, 1-0, and St. John’s by a tally of 3-0, both of which were wins at home.

Coach David MacWilliams said Penn State is solid defensively, and play in front of senior goalie in Andrew Wolverton, who was the 2013 Big Ten goalkeeper of the year last year.
MacWilliams added that a key going into Friday night will be starting and finishing the game strong.
“We need to make sure the first 10 or 15 minutes we get the butterflies out and are ready to play,” MacWilliams said.  “This year, Penn State has been a team that has scored a lot of goals in the second half … so we’ve got to be sure we’re ready to play 45 minutes the first half and 45 minutes the second half.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Jeffrey Field.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@temple.edu or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.

Coach hoping additions provide offensive spark

It was a tale of two opposite seasons for women’s soccer last year.

After enjoying a non-conference schedule in which the Owls won their first four contests and finished 5-3-1, the Owls struggled through American Athletic Conference play, finishing 1-8 and bowing out of 2013 on a nine-game losing streak.

Coach Seamus O’Connor hopes his team will adjust to the competitiveness of one of what he feels is one of the nation’s strongest soccer conferences in The American.

“It was just such a transition from the [Atlantic 10 Conference], and being my first year coaching here,” O’Connor said.  “It’s a different kind of athlete [in this conference].”

The area that hurt the Owls the most last season was their offense. Scoring only 0.89 goals per game, Temple finished 259th in the nation in that category.

O’Connor said the recruiting for this fall was focused on fixing that exact problem.

“We added at least four starters that can come in on the attacking side,” O’Connor said.  “Our numbers were good defensively … but we just weren’t able to put some goals away.”

A large reason Temple enjoyed success on the defensive side of the ball was goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff.  The sophomore recorded seven shutouts and impressed with 15 saves in a 3-1 loss against Connecticut on Oct. 11.

“Shauni was, for me, easily the best goalie in the conference last year,” O’Connor said.  “I don’t know how she wasn’t selected, because her stats were phenomenal.”

Kerkhoff, along with the rest of the defense, will need to remain strong in a conference where, “every stinkin’ team is good”, O’Connor added.

In terms of where he would like his team to sit by the end of the season, O’Connor said improvement is the primary goal.

“We always want to get better,” O’Connor said.  “I don’t like putting a number on it, but it depends.  Like any other sport, how are we injury-wise?  How do we gel?

“Because each year is a new team … this year,” O’Connor added, “I feel there’s a lot more options and depth, so I do feel it’s going to be a better year for us.”

Heightened expectations surrounding men’s soccer

Last year, men’s soccer exceeded expectations by finishing fourth in the inaugural season of the American Athletic Conference, despite being picked to finish last in an American coaches’ preseason poll.

This fall, coach Dave MacWilliams’ expectations are far greater.

“Our goal is to make the NCAA [tournament],” MacWilliams said.  “I’m going to be very disappointed if we don’t.”

The Owls finished 10-4-4 last season, primarily due to a defense that finished No. 10 in the nation in goals allowed per game (0.67).

Though Temple will lose two of its four regulars on the back line this year, MacWilliams feels that a strong recruiting class, ranked 19th in the nation via Collegesoccernews.com, will help fill some of those holes.

“With the recruiting class we have coming in, we feel pretty confident that these guys are going to play well,” MacWilliams said.  “How long will it take for them to meet the standards that we set?  That remains to be seen.”

MacWilliams added that the most concerning factor going into this season will be his team’s youth. 19 members of Temple’s squad are freshmen and sophomores, while the Owls feature just six seniors.

Because of Temple’s success last season, many teams, especially those in the conference, likely won’t take the Owls lightly in 2014.  It’s all part of MacWilliams’ plan for putting his program on the map.

“[Louisville and Connecticut] have a history behind them,” MacWilliams said.  “We didn’t have that history of upper echelon teams, and that’s what we’re trying to build here.”

Three gymnasts to compete in national qualifier

Evan Eigner. | HUA ZONG TTN

Evan Eigner. | HUA ZONG TTN

The NCAA announced on Monday that three members of Temple’s men’s gymnastics team will compete in the National Qualifying Competition on April 10 at the University of Michigan.

Sophomore Jon Rydzefski and freshman Jakob Welsh will compete in the all-around category, with qualifying scores of 81.150 and 80.650 respectively.
Sophomore Evan Eigner, the son of head coach Fred Turoff, qualified in the still rings with a score of 14.725.
The only Eastern College Athletic Conference team that made the National Qualifiers was William & Mary, who received an automatic bid by winning the conference tournament in Annapolis on March 28.