Creighton knows if it can take care of business this week on the soccer field, it could be in line for a reward Monday.
The Bluejays will try to lock up their spot in the 48-team NCAA field by winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament in Peoria, Ill. Creighton, the regular-season champion and No. 1 seed, faces Drake in Friday’s semifinal, with the winner advancing to Sunday’s championship.
Win both matches, and the No. 12 Bluejays would own an 11-game unbeaten streak and a 15-3-2 record when the NCAA soccer committee hands out seeds and first-round byes Monday. With an NCAA RPI of 14 this week, Creighton appears in line to claim one of the 16 byes if it avoids a Valley tournament stumble.
“This is a very important weekend for us,” Bluejay midfielder Brent Kallman said. “We have to stay focused on a game at a time but we’ve discussed how important it would be to get a game or two here in Omaha. Playing in front of our fans is a real big advantage to us.”
Equally important is eliminating one game from the tournament grind. Thirty-two of the 48 qualifiers will have to play an opening-round game Nov. 15. The 16 teams that are awarded seeds won’t see first action until Nov. 18.
“That’s what we are hoping for,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said. “The thing you don’t want to have to do is come off of playing two tough matches in the Valley tournament and then turn around to play again on Thursday, potentially on the road.
“That’s a worse-case scenario that we want to avoid.”
The Bluejays found themselves with a best-case scenario in last season’s tournament. Seeded No. 2, they didn’t have to play in the first round and then were at home through the next three rounds. Creighton won each match to advance to the College Cup in Birmingham, Ala.
Getting a bye would be important physically for the Bluejays, who would have a week off in between games. It also would be advantageous from a mental standpoint.
“You always get a boost when you’re coming off a win as opposed to a loss,” senior defender Andrew Ribiero said. “Right now, we’re on a run and we’re not even thinking about the start of the season. We want to keep things going heading into the tournament.”
Creighton’s unbeaten streak came after it hit a four-game midseason slump. Its current streak started against the team it faces Friday.
The Bluejays played Drake to a scoreless tie Sept. 29 in Des Moines. They have run off eight straight wins since.
“I think our guys would like another shot at Drake since they’re the team that tied us,” Bolowich said.
Drake, the No. 5 seed, advanced to the semifinals by knocking off fourth-seeded Evansville 2-1 in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Central Arkansas, the No. 6 seed, also scored an upset with a 1-0 win against tournament host and third-seeded Bradley in the other quarterfinal.
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