Creighton’s defensive mastery of Missouri Valley opponents continued with Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Bradley.
The shutout was the No. 22 Bluejays’ 11th straight in league play, dating back to the opening conference match of the 2011 season. Creighton tacked another scoreless 90 minutes onto a streak that stretches nearly 1,183 minutes.
Impressive, yes, but hardly something the Bluejays spend much time talking or thinking about. Three Creighton players — goalkeeper Jeff Gal and defenders Andrew Ribeiro and Jose Ribas — said after the game that they were unaware of the shutout streak.
“It’s always nice to see zeroes for the goalies,” Ribeiro said, “and we’d love to keep that going.”
Keeping Bradley off the scoreboard was vital Saturday before 1,843 at Morrison Stadium as Creighton’s only goal came on a penalty kick after the referee whistled a Braves player for a handball in the box just 2 minutes and 26 seconds into the match. Bruno Castro converted the penalty kick for the only score of the game.
Bradley outshot Creighton 16-12 and had a 7-5 advantage in attempts on goal. Gal had seven saves — all in the second half — as he posted his third straight shutout and fifth overall this season.
Creighton has posted shutouts in six of its past seven matches — six straight wins preceded by a scoreless tie against Drake.
“We’re all on the same page defensively,” Gal said. “That’s very comforting. I can trust these guys with my life. One of the biggest things a goalkeeper needs is trust in his back line, and they do a great job back there.”
Gal and Alex Bolowich, the Bluejays’ other goalkeeper sidelined by an elbow injury, have played behind a backline that has changed repeatedly throughout the season. In spite of the moving parts, the unit continues to grow and evolve.
Overall, Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said his defenders have been consistent throughout the season, even when the Bluejays hit a stretch where they lost three of four games and gave up eight goals.
Those losses came to teams ranked eighth (Saint Louis), 16th (Old Dominion) and 21st (Tulsa) in the NCAA’s RPI ratings. The highest-ranked team Creighton has played during its current seven-game unbeaten streak is Southern Illinois-Edwardsville (No. 23).
“When you play top-level competition, they’ll punish you if you make a mistake or if you’re out of position,” Bolowich said. “The good teams take advantage of that.
“For the most part this season, we’ve had a pretty cohesive effort from our back line. If one guy gets beat, there’s been another guy there to make up for it. And that’s what we’re doing really well now. We’re not getting isolated one-on-one and getting exposed.”
The victory allowed Creighton to move into first place in the Valley as the Bluejays improved to 3-0-1 in league play and 11-3-2 overall. Bradley dropped a point behind Creighton in the standings while falling to 3-2 and 9-5-2.
The Braves have one league game remaining, while Creighton has two — Saturday against Missouri State at home and Nov. 3 at Evansville.
“This gives us confidence,” said Ribas, referring to Creighton’s first-place standing. “During the season, we struggled a little bit but now we’re playing with confidence and a rhythm. We want to keep this thing going.”
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