When things are not going as anticipated, sometimes all that is needed is a good time with a familiar face to right things.
At least that's the hope for the Creighton men's soccer team, following a 2-0 victory over Drake at Morrison Stadium on Wednesday night.
"In the end, we had to start somewhere, and progress was made," said CU head coach Elmar Bolowich. "Drake is a good team, a well-coached team. They were in the top 50 of the RPI, so it's a still a great win for us."
Heading into the matchup between former Missouri Valley Conference foes, the Bluejays had dropped five of their previous seven matches. Throughout that stretch, Bolowich's squad struggled to put together something resembling complete effort, losing four of the aforementioned games 1-0. More recently, the Jays have struggled defensively, allowing five goals in the two games prior to Wednesday. The hope is that Wednesday's effort was a sign of things to come.
"Yeah, I would say so," sophomore goalkeeper Connor Sparrow answered when asked if that was his team's most complete performance recently. "We moved the ball real well. I mean, defensively we were tight."
Sparrow recorded the shutout in goal, making two saves in the process. The defenders in front of him did most of the heavy lifting, allowing the Bulldogs only four shots in the match. Creighton's back four did not stop at thwarting the Bulldog attack.
A little more than 15 minutes into the opening half, the Drake keeper, Darrin MacLeod, deflected a CU shot over the end line. Timo Pitter placed the ball on the northeast corner of the Morrison Stadium pitch, and played a cross that swung into the misty wind and ended up near the penalty spot. Defender Eric DeJulio adjusted his run towards goal and headed the ball between MacLeod and a Drake defender positioned just inside the near post. MacLeod attempted to bat the ball over the top of goal, but was unsuccessful. The game-winner was DeJulio's first goal of the season and the second of his career, but it apparently doesn't mean much to the sophomore from Overland Park, Kansas.
"I'm always more excited about the defensive performance," DeJulio responded after being asked whether the goal was more exciting than the play of the defenders. "Anytime we get a shutout and a win, I'm totally fine with that. The goals are just added bonuses."
The Bluejays added to their tally in the second half when Christian Blandon tracked down what looked to be an errant shot in the middle of the penalty area. Blandon broke towards the left. When it looked like he was getting ready to take a left-footed shot, Blandon calmly slipped the ball back onto his right foot, took a touch, and fired a shot into the side of the net that left MacLeod defenseless. Blandon's third goal of the year put the game out of reach, as the Bluejays improved to 8-6-2 on the year. Although his team walked away with a comfortable victory, Bolowich would have liked to see a bigger number on the scoreboard.
"It was a good effort. We came out, took control of the game," said the third-year coach. "Could perhaps have scored a few more goals with a few opportunities on counter attacks, we just need to be more calm to find the right pass to the guy who breaks. And if you do that and execute, then we score two or three more goals and make the game a little easier on us."
With Saturday's "Senior Day" match with conference bottom-dweller DePaul looming, Creighton looks to add to the win column and improve its chances of making the BIG EAST Conference Championship before traveling to Providence to end the regular season. With the Bluejays not yet owning a spot in Philadelphia, the site of the conference tournament, they have adopted a mindset of a team already in the postseason.
"The coaches kept reiterating during training this week that every game was a playoff game, in essence, from here on out," Sparrow said. "Really, every game is important in terms of just getting confidence back, for the RPI, just all that."
DeJulio acknowledged that the win-or-go-home attitude adds a little pressure to the upcoming games. Ultimately, he feels that the Bluejays still have the ability to play with anyone.
"We just go out there, and we just try to fight hard and play the game that we know we are able to play," said Sparrow. "We are talented enough to be able to go up against any opponent and give them a really good fight and ultimately come out victorious."
Coach Bolowich's squad was rewarded for their tough schedule with an at-large bid following an 9-8-2…