The Owls were looking to earn back-to-back victories for the first time since the spring 2021 season but instead ended in a frustrating 2-2 tie against the NJIT Highlanders on Saturday at the Temple Sports Complex. These spring games are all exhibition games to help get the team ready for the official fall season.
After a rainy start, junior midfielder Fabian Grant opened up the score at the six-minute mark to give the Owls a 1-0 advantage. Following the first goal, the Owls were unable to put the game away as they saw NJIT tightened up its defense, growing more aggressive by the minute resulting in a few yellow cards.
In just his third game back from his foot injury that kept him out for most of the fall, goalie Eoin Gawronski was unable to make it three scoreless games in a row as NJIT tied it up early in the second half. “I don’t think he's at fault for any of the goals. He really had a pretty quiet day, ultimately,” said head coach Brian Rowland.
Another player who has stepped up in the eyes of Rowland is freshman forward Xavier Rimpel, creating an attack that resulted in a few shots down the stretch. “He's a guy that came from minute one when we were out here in January in the freezing cold. He's come out working really hard. He really wants to put a stamp on the team,” an excited Rowland said.
NJIT took the lead with 15 minutes to go as it capitalized on the holes in the Temple defense. However, just four minutes later freshman defender Luka Kozomara tied the game with his first goal in an Owls uniform with just over ten minutes left. Neither team got good looks in the final minutes of play ending in a 2-2 draw.
Sophomore forward Mike Eijgendaal, who scored the lone goal in the Owls 1-0 victory over Loyola Maryland on March 20th, was unable to add to his goal tally. “He'll probably be upset that maybe those didn't go in, but some days you don't have it. And other days, you know, he'll score those 10 times over,” an optimistic Rowland explained.
The Owls were more aggressive offensively down the stretch but Rowland was disappointed in the missed opportunities as the Owls created 11 shots to the Highlanders nine. The Owls also had nine corners on the day. However, Rowland was pleased with the fight and spirit his players had as they continue to learn how to put these kinds of games away.
“I think we faded a little bit in the second half. I think there are some positives, even in the end obviously you're disappointed we gave up the lead, but at least we were able to come back and tie it up,” Rowland said.
The Owls travel to New Jersey to take on Rider, Saturday, April 2 at noon.
The Temple men’s basketball team celebrated Hooter’s birthday and the team’s seniors in its regular-season finale with a win over South Florida on Sunday, 75-47. This was a bounce-back game for the Owls, who lost by 38 points to nationally-ranked Houston just three days earlier.
Throughout the season, Damian Dunn has been the team’s leader and go-to scorer, and he continued to show that Sunday with a game-high 27 points.
“I don’t want to put that title on it. It’s a lot of things that I bring to the table just besides that side of the ball which is making guys better, which is something that I’ve been trying to really work on,” Dunn said.
One of the other many highlights of the season was witnessing the growth of freshman Zach Hicks. In his first season with the Owls, Hicks was able to solidify himself as the team’s biggest threat from beyond the arc. Hicks was 4-for-9 from three-point land on Sunday. He was asked about how opposing teams have made more of an effort in defending him after his terrific performance against Delaware State back in December when he hit a program-record number of three-pointers.
“Obviously definitely after Delaware State, I made the ten threes. In the first game of the season, I was 50% from three. I’m still a freshman, and people didn’t really notice,” Hicks said.
This has been head coach Aaron Mckie’s best year of coaching. Last season, the Owls finished near the bottom of the American with a record of 5-11. This season, Temple’s 10 conference wins and 17 wins overall is good for the fourth seed. And McKie is likely to get some consideration for conference coach of the year.
“Last year we didn’t have a summer. And I know it’s making excuses, but we had incoming freshmen, true freshmen. They didn’t get a chance to get in the weight room. Even in the fall, we didn’t get a chance to get in the weight room. We didn’t get a chance to practice. We had the Covid stoppages,” Mckie said.
With the regular season now in the rearview mirror, the Owls head to Ft. Worth, Texas for their quarterfinal game Friday versus fifth seed Tulane. The Green Wave finished at 13-14 overall, including a split with Temple. Friday’s tips off at 3pm.