Brent Kallman’s contributions to Creighton’s soccer success this season often go unnoticed.
The role of a defensive midfielder lends itself more to anonymity than glory. It’s a worker-bee position, one that isn’t for guys who are shy about digging in and doing the dirty work.
“My job is to make it easier on the guys in front of me to play,” Kallman said.
The fact that the senior from Woodbury, Minn., has performed that job to a high level, especially in the second half of the season, is a key reason the Bluejays are ending the year back in the final four.
“Brent Kallman is the man,” teammate Andrew Ribeiro said. “He is the most improved player on this team, by far. His game has improved all-around, but mostly his confidence.”
There was a time this season when Kallman’s worries were tied to his playing time. After starting the season playing almost every minute of every match, Kallman found his time on the field diminishing a half-dozen games into the year.
At the time, Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich was doing a great deal of experimenting with lineups and rotations. Having lost many of the key contributors who carried the Bluejays to their first College Cup appearance in a decade in 2011, Bolowich was a coach searching for the right combinations.
Kallman admits there were moments of frustration. But instead of pouting, he kept working.
“As a competitor, you want to be out there on the field,” he said. “I tried to train harder and I looked at myself to see what I needed to do differently and what else I could do to help the team.”
When Bolowich settled on a lineup five weeks into the season, Kallman was a part of it. He has started every one of the matches in the Bluejays’ nation-leading 14-game unbeaten streak and has played all but 10 minutes of Creighton’s three NCAA tournament victories.
“I found the role that I needed to play to help this team win,” Kallman said. “My job is to do the dirty work on the field. It might not be the prettiest soccer, but it’s a role that I take pride in.
“It’s about being competitive and trying to win every 50-50 ball that I can. Using my strengths, which is basically my size and my ball-winning ability, is the best way I can help this team.”
At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Kallman is one of Creighton’s biggest players. There have been times, though, when he wasn’t always one of its most confident.
“I’ve learned to trust my ability,” he said. “And being in there every game now as a starter, I know Coach trusts me. That’s helped my confidence and solidified my role.”
Kallman had started 19 of 55 matches in which he had appeared prior to this season. His only goal in his first three seasons came last year and was a match-winner, giving Creighton a 1-0 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
He’s scored twice this season, notching the game-winning goal in a 2-1 win over Evansville that clinched the Missouri Valley regular-season title and getting the Bluejays’ opening goal in NCAA play against Washington. He’s also had four assists, one more than he recorded in his first three seasons.
Asked about Kallman’s development this season, Bolowich called him a “changed person.”
“I give him a lot of credit because he got it,” Bolowich said. “He was a player that was inconsistent and that lost confidence easily. He was very hard on himself, and that can take away from your focus.
“Our message to him was always consistent. We told him to forget about everything else and just keep moving and working for the next opportunity. Right now, he’s playing fantastic soccer in the midfield.”
Kallman hopes to continue doing that for two more matches. The Bluejays face Indiana on Friday in the national semifinals. A victory would propel them into Sunday’s national championship game against either Maryland or Georgetown.
A championship would be the ultimate punctuation to a career for Kallman that has seen its ups and downs. He and Ribeiro are the only players on the roster who have been at Creighton for the past four seasons.
As freshmen, they were part of the only Bluejay team since 1992 that missed out on playing in the NCAA tournament. A year ago, they tasted disappointment when Charlotte ended their season by winning a shootout that decided the semifinal match.
Creighton wrapped up a return trip to the final four Sunday by beating Connecticut 1-0. Kallman said the initial excitement of knowing he’ll end his career in the College Cup has worn off.
“Now it’s time to get ready for the next game,” he said, “and seize this opportunity.”
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