There’s something to be said for peaking at the right time.
After going 0-6 in Missouri Valley play this season, the Creighton women’s soccer team found itself a win away from the Valley tournament championship game and playing for a berth in the NCAA tournament after beating Drake Sunday on penalty kicks.
But second-seeded Illinois State proved there’s more to be said for having one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the country.
Rachel Tejada scored early and late as the Redbirds ended sixth-seeded Creighton’s season with a 2-1 MVC tournament semifinal win in front of 307 Friday at Morrison Stadium.
Tejada, the 2011 Valley player of the year and freshman of the year, scored her 16th goal of the season in the sixth minute, then notched No. 17 in the 81st minute to break a 1-1 tie.
With the win, the Redbirds advance to Sunday’s championship game to face No. 5 Indiana State, a 2-1 winner against Evansville in the other semifinal at Morrison.
CU coach Bruce Erickson said his team tried to contain Tejada, but that task was daunting.
“Tonight she was dangerous. She was a handful,” Erickson said. “You can’t let a player like that get loose. She can’t be that open.”
The Redbirds applied pressure on the Jays’ back line early, and it paid off when Tejada found herself alone at the top of the penalty area in the sixth minute. She launched a right-footer from 20 yards out that made its way over the reach of Katie Jo Swanson to put Illinois State up 1-0.
That goal was the 37th of her career, already good for second all time in school history.
Despite the Redbirds’ hot start, Creighton slowly gained momentum and began to tilt the field in its favor as the Bluejay defense began to keep a careful eye on Tejada.
Gabriela Guillen finally struck for Creighton on a free kick from 22 yards out, her first goal of the season, breaking a Bluejay scoring drought that had reached 433:37 to tie the match at 1-1.
Tejada, who got the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory against Creighton on Sept. 29, was able to do it again in the 81st minute when she broke in alone on the goal, deked and swung out to the right and slipped the ball past a charging Swanson for a 2-1 Redbird lead.
“We were pushing, pushing,” Tejada said. “I beat a passer and put it away.”
Creighton (3-13-3) .................. 1 0—1
Illinois State (12-4-2) .................. 1 1—2
Goals: 1, ISU, Rachel Tejada (unassisted) 5:21. 2, CU, Gabriela Guillen (unassisted) 36:13. 3, Tejada (unassisted) 80:02.