Written By: Owen Boyle
Photo Courtesy of: Zamani Feelings
The Owls collected their first win against a top-five opponent in program history after defeating number two ranked SMU Saturday night.
The Mustangs entered this one with a 3-0 record while scoring 14 goals and conceding zero. Prior to this match, SMU beat Memphis 5-0 and USF 7-0; both teams got the better of Temple this season.
The last time the Owls lost four games at home was in the 2014 season. Temple was at risk of matching that stat while also in jeopardy of losing four straight at the Temple Sports Complex.
The Owls started the match on the front foot with numerous attacking opportunities early on.
“We certainly looked threatening to start the game,” said coach Brian Rowland. “We looked to maintain that until we found the breakthrough.”
The Owls would eventually find their breakthrough in the 11th minute of the match. Mike Eijgendaal powered home a close-range chance off of a loose ball in the box. This was the Dutchman’s second goal of the season in his first campaign with the Owls.
“The ball went in the net, so I was really happy,” said Mike Eijgendaal. “I turned as soon as possible and hit the target.”
Santiago Majewski collected the assist after heading the ball back across the face of the goal.
This was Majewski’s first career start and first career point for the Cherry and White. The junior has seen minimal game action this year after playing in seven games last year.
“I thought he (Majewski) was fantastic,” said Rowland. “He was everywhere tonight, and I really think he took a big step forward with that performance.”
In the 21st minute, the Mustangs thought they had leveled the match at one. Gabriel Costa was found in the box off a corner kick, and his shot was saved off the line by Eoin Gawronski. The rebound was put into the net, but the goal was ruled out due to a foul.
Gawronski, a redshirt freshman, was making his first career start for the Owls. He made his first appearance as a halftime substitute last weekend against USF when he replaced Niko Hartmann.
“I thought his performance was very good,” said Rowland. “He managed the game well, and the group was comfortable with Eoin in net, I’m very happy for him.”
In his first collegiate win, Gawronski made six saves, including five stops in the first half.
At the halftime interval, the Owls found themselves up a goal and just 45 minutes away from beating a nationally ranked squad.
SMU came out of the break the stronger team. They fired three shots off in four minutes. All of their shots in that time frame were blocked by Temple players.
The momentum would swing the way of the Owls when Thomas Haney received a straight red card. The junior defender tackled Sean Karani in the penalty box as Karani was in on a breakaway. This left the Mustangs with ten men and gave the Owls a golden opportunity from the penalty spot.
Pierre Cayet would slot the spot-kick in the bottom left corner right under a diving Shane Lanson. This goal gave the Owls a two-goal lead in the 63rd minute.
The Owls had the chance to put the game away with ten minutes left. Mike Eijgendaal struck the far post with a shot, and Lanson saved the rebound off Fabian Grant’s foot. The sequence ended with Sean Karani curling a shot wide.
Both Brandon Johnson of Temple and Papa Ndoye of SMU were sent off in the 86th minute after an altercation in the box. The head office decided to give both players red cards after conferring with the sideline referee.
The Mustangs would finish the game with nine men, and the Owls wound up with ten.
As the final whistle sounded, cheers rang out from the Temple players. The Owls halted their three-game losing streak and got their first home win of the 2021 season.
“I’m super proud of the guys,” said captain Pierre Cayet. “It means a lot for the program, it is a great day for us.”
The Owls finished the game with ten shots, six of them on frame. The Mustangs finished the game with 14 shots, also having six on target.
“I am happy to get the goals and create the number of chances we did,” said Rowland.
In the previous three games, the Owls had only scored one goal in each of those contests. They scored the first two goals that SMU had conceded in their four games this season.
This win was the program’s first against a top-five team in the nation. SMU came into the game as the country’s second-ranked team, sitting right behind the Clemson Tigers.
“We made history today,” said Cayet. “ I don’t think a lot of the guys realize it yet, but it’s a major win for this program.”
The Owls had never lost four straight home games dating back to the beginning of the OwlSports statistical era in 2006. The coaching staff and players were confident in their group going up against one of the nation’s best teams.
“Games aren’t decided by rankings, games are decided by players,” said Rowland. “I will take the guys in our locker room any day of the week.”
Temple will look to continue with their momentum as they head on the road for three consecutive matches.
They start the road trip off with a Saturday night meeting with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The Owls enter the matchup tied on points (6) with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane sit in second place with a game in hand on Temple.
The first of three road games can be seen on ESPN+ this Saturday, Mar. 13, at 8 pm.