Although it wasn’t the season he’d expected, Bruce Erickson’s Creighton women’s soccer team has ended up right where he wanted.
The Bluejays have reached the semifinals of the Missouri Valley soccer tournament, where they’ll play Illinois State on Friday at 6 p.m. at Morrison Stadium. Indiana State and Evansville open at 3:30. The finals are Sunday at 3 p.m.
Creighton fought through a 3-12-3 and 0-6-0 season and earned its spot in the postseason as the host school for the tournament. The Bluejays showed they belonged, though, by knocking out Drake in the quarterfinals.
“Whether we’re here with three wins or 12, the reality is we are here and they are not,” Erickson said. “I would take being here as a great opportunity. That’s how the girls are looking at it, too.”
They face a tough challenge against the 11-4-2 Redbirds, who have won eight of their past 10 matches. Erickson thinks second-seeded Illinois State is the best team in the league.
They beat Creighton 2-1 earlier in the season, scoring the clincher in the 89th minute.
“We were the better team on the day but we gave up a couple of bad goals,” Erickson said. “We’re out to avenge that.”
Erickson expects to finally have everyone healthy for Friday’s match. Several players have been banged up and missed portions of games. Leading scorer Brittney Neumann played with a rolled ankle against Drake.
The Jays got a big boost of confidence from that Drake game, which the Bluejays won on penalty kicks. Erickson said it was the best effort and the hardest the team has worked all season.
“That performance really solidified that we are indeed a team,” he said. “Everybody was fighting for each other and it was fun to be a part of it.”
Freshman Flo Beshiri, who had played in just one previous match, made the winning penalty kick after the teams were tied 7-7.
Erickson said he’d told everyone at a meeting the day before the game that everyone would have a role and everybody would need to help to win the game — and everyone did.
“The kid who played the least minutes of any field player steps up and hits the winning kick. That was exciting to see,” he said.
Erickson said his assistants had set up some competitive penalty kicking drills the past few weeks, so the Bluejays were prepared to handle that type of finish.
Katie Jo Swanson, who has spent every minute in goal this season, stopped a Drake penalty kick at the start of the second half that also was crucial. That prevented what could have been CU’s seventh 1-0 loss.
“That goes in, and you are thinking here we go again,” Erickson said. “She makes that and now you’re thinking this is huge. That’s a huge turnaround and shift in momentum.”
All together, it was an exhilerating day, the coach said.
Erickson hopes to see his team play that well in just two more games, which is all it takes to win the title.
“Our girls were just fired up,” Erickson said. “We see a path all the way to the championship.”
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