One rocket strike off freshman Timo Pitter’s left foot changed Sunday’s NCAA tournament match between Creighton and Washington in a multitude of ways.
Not only did Pitter’s goal break a tie 10 minutes into the second half, but it altered the flow of play for both teams the remainder of the match. The eighth-ranked Bluejays tacked on two more goals for a 4-2 victory that advanced them into the third round of the tournament.
“That game opened up a little bit after we got up 2-1,” Creighton senior Brent Kallman said. “They had to chase the game and that freed up more openings for us to make things happen. It’s something that happens in a knockout game like this when a team gets into a desperation mode.”
Kallman had the Bluejays ahead five minutes into the second-round match that drew 1,681 to Morrison Stadium. He took a crossing pass from Bruno Castro off his chest, settled the ball and knocked an 8-yarder past goalkeeper Spencer Richey.
The advantage held until No. 21 Washington tied the game three minutes into the second half when James Moberg headed in a long throw-in from Michael Harris. CU came into the game knowing that Harris, whose somersaulting throw-ins can travel half the field, was a dangerous weapon for the Huskies.
“We had to defend that for 90 minutes,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said. “I thought our guys did a fantastic job with it.”
With one exception. Moberg’s goal at 47:55 energized the Huskies but Pitter helped the Bluejays regain the momentum. He narrowly missed giving his team the lead with a blast from just inside the box that Richey knocked away.
On the ensuing corner kick, Jose Ribas played a short pass into Pitter. He turned and unleashed a laser from about 25 yards out that Richey couldn’t stop.
Pitter’s team-leading ninth goal of the season put Creighton ahead with a little more than 35 minutes to play. The Bluejays made it 3-1 when Andrew Ribeiro scored at 65:54, then sealed the outcome when Christian Blandon finished off a beautifully executed three-on-two run with 4:27 left in the match.
“Creighton played well tonight and, to be honest, deserved to go through,” said Washington coach Jamie Clark, who coached the Bluejays in 2010. “Shame for us. We’ve had a very good season but I don’t think we picked the best night to have kind of lethargic performance.”
Clark and his players agreed that Pitter’s goal changed things dramatically.
“It didn’t take the wind out of our sails but it made us have to push forward more,” said Dylan Tucker-Gagnes, who scored Washington’s final goal with 1:22 to play. “We got back on our heels a little bit.”
The loss ended Washington’s season at 13-5-3. The Huskies had lost once in their 12 previous matches but couldn’t get by a CU team that’s even hotter.
The Bluejays’ victory was their 11th straight and hiked their unbeaten streak to 12. Creighton will take its 16-3-2 record to Akron for a Sunday match against the top-ranked Zips, who advanced with a 2-1 win against Michigan.
Akron and Creighton played to a 1-1 tie in Omaha on Aug. 31.
“We played there two years ago, with Jamie,” Ribeiro said. “They have a good crowd — rambunctious and always yelling at you. It’s fun, and we’ll be excited.”
Washington (13-5-3) ................. 0 2—2
At Creighton (16-3-2) ................. 1 3—4
Goals: 1, CU, Kallman (Castro), 5:09. 2, UW, Moberg (Harris), 47:55. 3, CU, Pitter (Ribas), 54:54. 4, CU, Ribeiro (Ribas), 65:54. 5, CU, Blandon (Pitter), 85:33. 6, UW, Tucker-Gagnes (unassisted), 88:38.
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