Written By: Owen Boyle
Photo Courtesy of: Temple Athletics
Two goals in each half propel the Owls to a dominating win over nationally-ranked Tulsa on senior night.
The Golden Hurricane entered the match in first place in the American Athletic Conference and had only given up four goals this season.
After more than a week off, the Owls hosted nationally-ranked Tulsa in the last home game of the season.
The Owls had last weekend’s game against Memphis postponed. This was the second time this season that the match in Memphis has had to be rescheduled.
The program celebrated senior night where they honored the team’s six graduating seniors.
The entire starting defense for the Owls was recognized with all four graduating at the end of the season. Pierre Cayet, Mickael Borger, Esteban Suárez, and Brandon Johnson have all played key roles in the Owl’s success over the past few seasons.
“It has been a pleasure playing with them,” said captain Pierre Cayet. “Those guys are f***ing warriors. I love them so much, the way we compete and work together.”
Tyler Gainer and Elias Hellgren-Villegas were also honored as they will both depart the team after the season ends. Hellgren-Villegas was listed as a junior for the majority of the year but has enough credits to graduate and will not return next year.
The Owls had an early opportunity from a set-piece, but Esteban Suárez’s curling effort was easily saved by Lucas Cline.
The Owls were on the front foot very early on. Mike Eijgendaal found himself on a partial breakaway thanks to a through ball from Sean Karani, but Lucas Cline had the answer in net for Eijgendaal’s low shot.
Temple would find the net just a few minutes later on Sean Karani’s first goal of the season. He split two defenders and rifled a low shot into the bottom left corner from the top of the box.
This was the first goal that Tulsa has allowed in a first half this season.
With just over 20 minutes left in the first half, the Owls found the scoresheet again. This time it was Nigel Griffith who tapped home a cross from Mickael Borger at the back post.
The freshman scored his first collegiate goal in what was his first start in cherry and white.
“What a performance,” said coach Brian Rowland. “We knew he was a very talented player coming into this season so I am very proud of him.”
Tulsa’s first and only chance of the half came off the foot of Chase Bromstedt. He found a loose ball at the top of the box but fired his weak shot wide.
With five minutes left the Owls found themselves with another golden opportunity. Sean Karani rifled a shot well over the crossbar from close range off of a Fabian Grant cross.
The Owls ended the half with seven shots in total with four of them being on target.
Temple started the second half on the right food yet again. Nigel Griffith found Jalen Campbell with a layoff pass, the Canadian fired his shot into the back of the net.
Campbell notched his third goal of the season while Griffith collected his second point of the evening. Campbell surpassed Mike Eijgendaal for the team lead in goals.
Eoin Gawronski was called into action where he was forced to make his toughest safe of the night. A low but hard shot from Ben Barkley at the top of the area was stopped by Garonski.
The first yellow card of the night went to defender Pierre Cayet who took down Barkley on a Tulsa counter-attack.
The Owls picked up another yellow just a few minutes later as Brady O’Connor was cautioned for a delay of game infraction.
The rout continued as the Owls found the back of the net for the fourth time on the night. Nigel Griffith’s close shot was saved by Kline but Sean Karani was there to tap home the rebound
Karani entered the night with zero goals this season and finished his performance with a brace. Nigel Griffith also entered the match scoreless but finished the night with four points ( goal, two assists).
The Owls bid for a shutout would end when the referee awarded the Golden Hurricane with a penalty kick. No clear foul was committed in the box but the penalty was still given.
Jonathan Cervantes converted the spot-kick past a diving Gawronski to hand Tulsa a consolation goal.
Another dangerous opportunity came the way of the Owls with five minutes left. Fabian Grant’s cross was missed by both Alex Marin and Aly Camara. If either player had found a touch on the ball it would have wound up in a wide-open net.
With the win, the Owls have now recorded back-to-back wins over nationally-ranked opponents. Both of those wins came on North Broad.
Temple has won more games over ranked opponents this season than opponents not recognized within the nation’s top-25 teams.
“It’s a strange year”, said Rowland. “The games where we have been at the top of our game and have had success in have lined up against some ranked opponents. It shows the quality we have in our team.”
Temple finished the night with 10 total shots with six on target. Tulsa ended the match with seven total shots and five on goal.
Eoin Gawronski had little to do in the first half but was busy in the second frame for the Owls. He recorded five saves on the night.
The Owls wrap up their home campaign with a 2-3 record, losing the first three and winning the last two.
“We lacked rhythm and form very early on,” said Rowland. “We know what we are capable of and the last two home wins against SMU and Tulsa have proved that.”
Temple now sits right outside a playoff spot with 10 points, just two points behind USF in fourth and SMU in third. The top four AAC teams make the conference tournament while the last two teams miss out altogether.
The cherry and white will travel to Memphis for a Tuesday matinee with the Tigers. This is the third time both programs are attempting to play this match, the prior two were postponed due to weather and Covid related issues.
In their previous meeting this season, the Owls lost a heartbreaker at home in overtime.
“This conference has proven to not be easy,” said defender Esteban Suarez. “We know we have to beat everyone from now on and keep our momentum going.”
The Owls will look for revenge as they push for the playoffs this Tuesday at 1 on ESPN+.