The Memphis Tigers were a minute and 28 seconds away from an American Conference Championship semifinal matchup against the UCF Knights, but the Temple Owls snatched that opportunity away with a 2-1 double overtime victory at the Park Avenue campus, marking the first time in program history  the Tigers hosted an AAC Championship Tournament match.

After a strong start to the season with an 8-2 record, the men’s side couldn’t translate their improved play into the final stretch of year, losing five of their last seven matches. Despite a disappointing finish in the AAC Championship Tournament, the Tigers have the opportunity to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with their respectable resume this year.

The Tigers won 10 games this season for the first time since their 2011 campaign and scored 34 goals (22 in 2018). Aside from overall improvement, they have earned wins against then No. 10 Xavier and No. 3 SMU, but lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to UCF in Orlando. Their stretch of five wins in a row on the road also set a program record from Sept. 14 through Oct. 18. The Tigers are ranked No. 35 in the NCAA RPI. 

AAC Tournament Championship Quarterfinal recap vs. Temple

The No. 4 seed Memphis Tigers hosted the No. 5 seed Temple Owls, and it was an even matchup for both sides. Both teams showed tenacity throughout the match, with both keepers recording a collective 13 saves. Tigers keeper Parker Lackland finished with a seven-save performance, a season high.

Memphis won the first half with a goal in the 25th minute by senior forward Sam Ashton, putting the Tigers up early. It was assisted by junior midfielder Christoforos Kourtis for his seventh assist in his first year for the Tigers, and it was Ashton’s 11th goal of the season.

Temple came back stronger in the final 45 minutes of regulation, with seven of their 17 shots made in that time frame. With Memphis unable to respond offensively, with only one shot in the second half, it came back to bite them with the Owls’ Esteban Suarez scoring in the 89th minute for the equalizer after mayhem in front of Lackland’s goal.

After a quiet first 10 minutes of overtime, the Tigers found two great opportunities to score in the second period with Ford Hunt and Peyton McKnatt. Temple keeper Simon Lefebvre made the crucial saves.

In the 103rd minute, the visitors earned a corner kick and more mayhem ensued near Lackland’s goal, but the Owls scored, leaving some Memphis players lying in agony afterwards.

AAC postseason awards

Sam Ashton (11 goals; three assists): All-AAC First Team

Ben Roberts (one goal; one assist): All-AAC Second Team

Gurman Sangha (three goals; four assists): All-AAC Second Team

Peter Chang (three goals; three assists): All-Rookie Team  

Ford Hunt (one goal; one assist): All-Rookie Team

What’s next?

An unfortunate end in the AAC Tournament might not be the last match for the Tigers. Head coach Richard Mulrooney’s side now play a waiting game to see if they qualify for an at-large bid into the Big Dance. The men’s team have not made the NCAA Tournament since the 2004 season when they were the Conference-USA Tournament Champions. The NCAA Men’s Soccer Selection Show begins Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. CT available to stream on NCAA.com

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