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.”

Men’s soccer hosts final regular season game

The men’s soccer team’s regular season finale against St. Joseph’s University will be looked at to gain momentum and confidence heading into the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament next weekend.

“You want to keep moving forward and you want to keep winning games,” coach Dave MacWilliams said. “We know it’s going to be a tough game, but we’ve talked to the guys and we know they’re ready for it.”

The Owls, who are currently 9-5-3 with an in-conference record of 5-1-2, will honor their four seniors before tomorrow’s match-up. Midfielders Cody Calafiore, Homero Rodriquez and Andrew Dodds, along with defender Billy Kappock, will be sent off properly in their final regular season game as Owls.

“The toughest thing for me as a coach is that you develop relationships with four quality young men,” MacWilliams said. “All of a sudden it’s over, and it goes quick. I keep preaching that four years of college really go quick, so you want to try and make the best of it.”

Temple currently ranks fourth in the A-10. If play had ended today, the Owls would be taking on No. 17 Xavier in the first round of the tournament. But first, MacWilliams has his focus set on tomorrow’s City 6 match.

“I watched [St. Joe’s] play and they’re a pretty competitive team,” MacWilliams said. “Although they haven’t gotten the results, they’ve played some quality soccer.”

Tomorrow’s finale against the Hawks, who are ranked dead last in the A-10, will begin at 1 p.m.

-Tyler Sablich

Men’s soccer gears up for final road weekend

Coming off disappointing outings against Butler and Saint Louis, the men’s soccer team’s schedule doesn’t get any easier this weekend.

Temple has road matches against Atlantic 10 Conference rivals Fordham Friday and La Salle Sunday.

Both team’s feature top-notch goalies. Fordham’s sophomore goalkeeper Sean Brailey has posted a .833 save percentage, while La Salle’s junior goalkeeper John McCarthy has recorded a .857 save percentage. McCarthy is ranked No. 4 in the nation in that category.

“We know they’re going to be very close games,” coach Dave MacWilliams said. “I think the key is getting on the board early against these teams. I think because of their goalies and the way these teams play, the first goal is going to very important. We have to opportunistic in the box and when we get chances we need to bury them.”

Last weekend, the Owls match against Butler ended in a double-overtime draw after they led the Bulldogs 3-0 with 15 minutes left in regulation. Temple became lax and their sub-par efforts came back to devastate them. Sunday against Saint Louis, Temple was outplayed in every aspect by the nationally ranked Billikens, losing 3-1.

MacWilliams said he was disappointed in the way his team played and that he would have been satisfied coming away with one win and one loss.

“The positive side is that we only have one loss in the conference,” MacWilliams said. “It was a lesson learned for us, we want to learn from our mistakes. I think Friday’s game took a lot out of us physically and mentally. We can’t let what happened [last weekend] hurt us moving forward.”

With three games remaining in the regular season, Temple is 7-5-3 overall and 3-1-2 in A-10 play. They lost to Fordham last season 1-0 in overtime.

The Rams are 5-5-3 overall and 1-2-2 in conference play in 2012. La Salle is 8-5-2 with an in-conference record of 2-3.

Friday’s road match against Fordham will begin at 7 p.m.

-Tyler Sablich

Men’s soccer hosts No. 23 Saint Louis

The men’s soccer team will face its most difficult test thus far in 2012 Sunday afternoon in Ambler.

No. 23 St. Louis comes in with a 10-3 overall record and a conference record of 4-1. Temple is coming off a 3-3 draw that it should have won. Butler stormed back with three goals in the final 15 minutes of regulation thanks to a lackadaisical Temple approach. Coach Dave MacWilliams said the Owls were “patting themselves on the back” after they scored their third goal.

“We can’t turn back. It’s over and done with,” MacWilliams said. “We just gotta focus on what’s ahead of us. We can’t change what happened. It’s in the record books and we gotta move forward.”

St. Louis is coming off four consecutive Atlantic 10 Conference victories. Their only conference loss came against No. 13 Xavier.

The Billikens’ potent attack is led by sophomore forward Robbie Kristo and junior midfielder Alex Sweetin, who have 28 points between them.

After Friday’s disappointing outcome, the Owls look to bounce back and remain unbeaten at home, where they are 5-0-1. They are 7-4-3 overall and 3-0-2 in A-10 play. St. Louis is 3-2 on the road, but one of those losses were against a very solid Xavier team.

Sunday’s match will get started at 1 p.m. at the Ambler Sports Complex.

Men’s soccer sets to defend first place

The men’s soccer team will face an unfamiliar Atlantic 10 Conference opponent Friday afternoon.

After leaving the Horizon League at the end of the 2011 season, Butler will face Temple for the first time as conference rivals.

Although the Bulldogs will bring a 3-6-4 overall record and a 1-3 conference record into Ambler, coach Dave MacWilliams believes Butler is a much better team than the standings indicate.

“We know they’re a very tough team,” MacWilliams said. “We have scouts on them and we see it in game film. They’ve played a very hard schedule. I’ve been telling my players all week that we shouldn’t look at their wins and losses because they’ve played a much harder schedule.”

MacWilliams seems to be right on point with that. In fact, the teams that Temple has beaten this year (Manhattan, St. Peter’s, Howard, Rider, St. Bonaventure, Duquesne, and UMass) are a combined 20-66-5. Although they’ve certainly succeeded in beating inferior teams, they’re inability to beat more formidable opponents remains troubling.

“We’ve talked about it,” MacWilliams said. “We have to beat teams that have a higher winning record. I presented that challenged to the guy’s this weekend because we’re facing two of the top teams in the A-10.”

With Friday’s game against Butler and Sunday’s match-up against No. 23 St. Louis, MacWilliams believes an upcoming weekend of tough soccer will give a good indication of where the Owls are as a team.

“We’ll know at the end of the weekend where we stand,” MacWilliams said. “It’s going to be a measuring stick for all of us.”

Temple is currently in sole possession of first place in the A-10 with an overall record of 7-4-1 and a conference record of 3-0.

The game against Butler will get started at 2:30 p.m. Friday at the Ambler Sports Complex.

-Tyler Sablich

Men’s soccer squares off with Duqesne

After beating St. Bonaventure in an overtime thriller Friday afternoon, the men’s soccer team has shifted it’s focus to Sunday’s Atlantic 10 Conference matchup against Duquesne.

The Dukes (4-7) travel to Ambler Campus after beating A-10 rival St. Joseph’s Friday in Philadelphia. Temple (5-4-1) is also coming off it’s first conference victory of 2012.

The hero in that game, junior defender Jake Lister, knows exactly what to expect from Duquesne.

“Duquesne is always a tough team to play. I have a few buddies on the team,” Lister said. “They’re a really, really physical team, and we’re just going to give them all we got.”

The Dukes got the best of the Owls when these two teams met last season. Then-junior forward Joshua Patterson scored both goals for Duquesne, defeating Temple 2-0.

Coach David MacWilliams says that the schedule has not done his team any favors. He gave the team off on Saturday in anticipation of another grueling A-10 match Sunday.

“We’re just trying to get some rest so we can turn it around for Sunday,” MacWilliams said. “They’re a very athletic team, particularly up front. They’ve got some pace. It’s going to be a battle for us.”

Sunday’s match against Duquesne will begin at 11:00 a.m. at the Ambler Sports Complex.

-Tyler Sablich