Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich's halftime message on Tuesday was simple.
Relax, Bolowich told his players, who he thought looked uptight during the first 45 minutes of the match against Loyola Chicago. Do what you do best.
“I think a lot of guys think there is so much pressure on us,” Creighton senior Andrew Ribeiro said. “It should be easy to let go, don't think about what everyone says and just play our game. I think you could see that in the second half.”
The No. 24 Bluejays picked up the pace in the final 45 minutes, got a goal from Timo Pitter and suffocated the Ramblers' attack with solid defense in posting a 1-0 victory in front of 1,178 at Morrison Stadium.
The win was Creighton's first in four matches while Pitter's goal, with 38:03 left in the second half, snapped a scoreless string that stretched back to the 62nd minute of the Sept. 22 loss to Saint Louis.
The Bluejays failed to score in two matches last week, dropping a 2-0 decision at Tulsa and then playing Drake to a scoreless tie. Tack on another scoreless half against a Loyola Chicago team that had won once in eight matches, and it's not surprising that Creighton's anxiety meter was running on high at the break.
“Maybe that was affecting a little bit our psyche,” Bolowich said. “Guys might have been starting to question themselves but in the end, you have to come out and compete. You have to settle down and play your game.
“That's exactly what we told them. We told them to be patient and things will happen.”
Pitter put the Bluejays ahead when he took a long pass from Jose Ribas after a run, settled the ball and drilled a shot past goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski. The goal was Pitter's third of the season, and it moved the freshman from Oberschwarzach, Germany, into a tie for the team lead with Sean Kim.
Pitter had five of Creighton's 21 shots and put three on goal in playing what Bolowich called his best game of the season.
“I saw a little bit of Ethan Finlay with him today,” Bolowich said. “He kept an entire defense busy with his runs. You're looking at an offensive output that just created havoc on their defense.”
Pitter's face lit up when told that his coach had compared his performance to Finlay, who led Creighton in scoring the past three seasons and finished runner-up for the national player of the year award last season.
“I'm glad Coach said that about me,” Pitter said. “I know about Ethan, and I take that as a compliment, of course.”
The Bluejays peppered Dobrowolski with 15 shots after halftime. He came up with a dozen saves to keep the match tight, but his teammates didn't get a shot on goal until the 87th minute. It was Loyola Chicago's only shot on goal, and Creighton goalkeeper Jeff Gal stopped it to come away with his fourth win of the season.
The victory improved Creighton to 6-3-1 and slowed the 1-3-1 skid that had sent the Bluejays tumbling from No. 2 in the coaches rankings to 24th. It also might quiet some of the social media talk that has been hard for the players to avoid.
“It's more frustrating than anything because we want to please everybody,” Ribeiro said. “The fans expect a lot and when things don't go well, they start saying we're having a bad year.
“It hurts us inside because we want to show them that Omaha is among the top soccer programs in the country. I take it personally.”
NOTES: The Ramblers' only shot on goal came from Dobrowolski, who launched a shot from midfield that Gal had to make a leaping save to stop. ... Creighton's 13 shots on goal were a season high. “We just need to be more efficient,” Bolowich said. “You don't want to let a team hang around and have a chance to tie at the end.” ... The shutout was Creighton's fifth of the season and Gal's second. ... Creighton returns to Missouri Valley Conference action Saturday with a 7 p.m. home match against Southern Illinois Edwardsville.
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter.com/PivOWH