There will be no easing into the regular season for the Creighton men’s soccer team.
So why should its exhibition schedule be any different?
The Bluejays take the field for the first time this fall with an exhibition game against ninth-ranked Maryland at 7 p.m. Friday at Morrison Stadium.
“It gives us an idea where our team is,” senior midfielder Jose Gomez said. “Our schedule is pretty tough.”
Added sophomore Eric Miller: “Maryland has a great program every year, so it should be a really good test. Hopefully we can get a lot of fans in here and simulate what a game during the regular season will be like.”
It will be the first game at Morrison Stadium for several Bluejays. Creighton, which lost seven starters from a team that reached the national semifinals, has 15 new players.
Gomez and Miller are two of the returning starters, along with senior Andrew Ribeiro and junior Bruno Castro.
“We’re still trying to define roles for our players. Mostly they define their roles in a way that they practice,” said second-year coach Elmar Bolowich, who guided Creighton to a 21-2-1 record in 2011. “This will be a process.”
Bolowich said Maryland brings a more experienced team than Creighton into the season, and he sees the Terrapins as a national title contender.
Creighton comes into the season ranked third in the NSCAA preseason poll — Bolowich takes that ranking with a grain of salt because he said so much is based on what a team did the previous season.
The Bluejays will quickly find out where they’re at — five of their first six regular-season games are against teams that competed in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
“That’s pretty heavy, but I like it that way,” Bolowich said. “It makes you grow up fast.”
The offense brings back some proven scorers. Even though the Bluejays lost their top goal scorer in All-American Ethan Finlay, Castro, Gomez and Ribeiro were the team’s next three top scorers.
But the Bluejays need to plug some holes on the defensive line, including the loss of All-America goalie Brian Holt, who played nearly every minute in goal last season. Bolowich said this year’s goalkeeper situation is still up in the air — he’s not even ready to announce who will start in goal against Maryland.
“We better score a lot of goals,” Bolowich said with a laugh. “I don’t think we’ll have 19 shutouts this year.
“I think this year will be a weight distribution, so to speak, where every player has to chip in.”
Creighton’s defense allowed a total of five goals last season.
“It might be tough to match the first goals from last year, but I think we’ll still be very strong defensively,” Miller said. “I think defense will always be one of our strengths here at Creighton.”
NOTES: The Maryland matchup is the first of two exhibition games this weekend for the Bluejays. Creighton also hosts UNO at 4 p.m. Sunday before opening its regular season Aug. 24 at home against Northern Illinois. ... One of Creighton’s early tests will be televised statewide. Creighton’s Aug. 31 home matchup with No. 10 Akron will be broadcast on NET. That game will begin at 7:36 p.m. ... Creighton went undefeated at Morrison Stadium last season, winning all 14 games.
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