Creighton goalkeeper Jeff Gal is prepared to get an earful.
Gal will bear the brunt of Akron’s rambunctious fans during Sunday’s NCAA tournament match. His teammates who played at First Energy Stadium-Cub Cadet Field in 2010 have warned Gal to be ready for the worst.
“They’ve told me it’s hostile and the fans are crazy,” Gal said. “They said it would be more brutal than what I got at Evansville.”
Gal heard some things there about his mom and sisters that might make a longshoreman blush.
“It’s going to be interesting to hear what they bring out,” said Gal, a redshirt freshman who is unbeaten in his 12 starts this season. “I hear everything, but I never let it get to me. That’s the way I’ve always been, and my approach going forward is not to let anything get in the way of what I want to accomplish.”
The match between the top-ranked Zips and eighth-ranked Bluejays highlights third-round play in the tournament. The winner of the 3:30 p.m. CST contest will advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament while the loser will see its season end.
Creighton’s visit to Akron in 2010 resulted in a 1-0 loss to a team that also was ranked No. 1 at the time. A crowd of 3,856 turned out for that midweek, midseason match.
Akron has been among the nation’s attendance leaders since coach Caleb Porter got things going there seven seasons ago. The Zips drew an average of 2,822 for their 11 home dates and had 3,264 turn out for Sunday’s second-round win against Michigan.
“It’s fun playing there,” Creighton senior Andrew Ribeiro said. “It’s a cool atmosphere, and their fans are always yelling at you.”
Said fellow senior Brent Kallman: “It’s crazy there, but we’re lucky that we play in a good environment here. Coach has talked to us about using that crazy atmosphere and play excited. Even if they’re all yelling at us, we can’t let it bring us down. We have to let it bring us up.”
Creighton also has been a fixture in the top 10 in attendance at Morrison Stadium, which CollegeSoccerNews named in 2011 as the most exciting venue to watch a college soccer match.
The Bluejays averaged 2,456 for their 11 home contests this season, setting a school record when 6,545 turned out for a mid-September matchup with Old Dominion. The crowd didn’t keep Creighton from dropping that match 2-1, and Bluejay coach Elmar Bolowich discounts the impact that Akron’s crowd can have on Sunday’s match.
“Every player should wish to play in an environment like that,” Bolowich said. “It’s just like Creighton. We get the tremendous support. We’ll see the same in Akron, but it’s just not going to be in our favor.
“We have done well on the road all year long. We’re not intimidated. I don’t want to mystify Akron. They’re another team that has 11 players on the field. It’s not like they’re playing with 13 and we’re playing with nine.”
Creighton and Akron already met this season, playing to a 1-1 tie Aug. 31 in Omaha.
One Bluejay who is especially looking forward to hooking up again with the Zips is junior midfielder Zach Barnes. He transferred to Creighton this season after playing his first two years at Southern Methodist.
His former roommate and teammate, Robbie Derschang, transferred to Akron.
“He and I have been talking back and forth,” Barnes said. “He says the atmosphere there is just like it is here. I’m pretty anxious to see how it’s going to be.
“I’ve heard the fans are unreal, and I’m really, really excited to play there.”
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