The Creighton women’s soccer team appears to have the talent and the experience to make a strong run at a spot in the NCAA tournament this season.
The Bluejays also have a focus that might have been lacking at times during last season’s 13-6-2 campaign.
“We see what kind of potential that we have,’’ sophomore forward Brittney Neumann said. “We have high expectations for ourselves, and I think that keeps us focused on our goal for the end of the year.’’
Creighton fell just short of reaching that goal in 2009, losing a chance to secure the Missouri Valley’s automatic NCAA berth when it dropped a 1-0 decision to Illinois State in the championship game of the league tournament.
The Bluejays return 23 players, including six of their top seven scorers and goalkeepers Alicia Montgomery and Katie Jo Swanson. Montgomery and Swanson spearheaded a defense that finished 13th nationally with a 0.60 goals-against average while notching a school-record 11 shutouts.
Coming close to qualifying for the NCAA tournament last season, Creighton coach Bruce Erickson said, makes this season’s team a little more hungry.
“We have players that want to taste the victory,’’ Erickson said at Thursday’s media day. “That makes them more focused. They want to make sure they don’t fall short of their goal this year.’’
Creighton opens its regular season Friday against South Dakota State with a 7 p.m. match at Morrison Stadium. The Bluejays did not allow a goal in two exhibition games, playing Wisconsin-Milwaukee to a scoreless tie before scoring a 3-0 win over Kansas.
The victory over the Jayhawks raised the players’ confidence, midfielder Emily Orbell said.
“That felt really good,’’ said Orbell, one of Creighton’s four seniors. “We’ve shown that we have a lot of depth on this team, and we’re comfortable knowing that whoever is on the field is going to get the job done.’’
Erickson’s main concern heading into the season is building depth at the defender spots, as many of the reserves are inexperienced. That’s not the case at most of the other positions, and that’s helped the Bluejays get off to a solid start.
“There’s a lot of competition,’’ he said. “We’re a little more fit, a little bit sharper, a little bit more of everything. Our depth is so good that everyone knows they have to be at their best or there’s another player ready to take their place.’’
Orbell, a first-team All-Valley performer last season, said the players sense that daily in practice.
“Practices are always very competitive,’’ she said. “Everyone knows they have to work hard to earn their spot. Nothing is guaranteed this year, and I think that’s what makes it so good.’’
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