Low expectations, high hopes.
The Creighton women’s soccer team has both as it prepares for the upcoming season. The Bluejays, coming off the worst season in program history, have been picked ninth in the new Big East preseason poll.
“We want to prove people wrong,” junior midfielder Madelyn Buckner said.
Said teammate Kelsey O’Donnell: “I think all of us know that we’re much better than ninth. Our preseason practices have been very good. I think we know that we can be a good team.”
In order to do that, Creighton will have to find a way to generate more offense than it did in compiling a 3-13-3 record in 2012. The Bluejays were shut out eight times last season and scored one goal in seven other games.
Creighton loses leading scorer Brittney Neumann as well as goalkeeper Katie Jo Swanson but returns seven starters and five other letter winners. Coach Bruce Erickson also is counting on some immediate contributions from a freshman class he believes is the best he has assembled in 14 seasons at Creighton.
“They are by far the most prepared freshman class we’ve had,” Erickson said. “In our fitness testing, they are leaps and bounds ahead of any class we’ve had. We need to count on a bunch of them to play, and they’ve shown really well.
“We probably have four or five freshmen in our top 12 or 13 players.”
Creighton also relied heavily on its freshmen last season, with several returning this season.
“Last year, we were a little inexperienced,” Erickson said.
The Bluejays also will look to transfers Addison Nokels (Iowa State) and Kirstyn Corder (New Hampshire) to make an impact. Corder scored one of Creighton’s two goals in Wednesday’s 3-2 exhibition loss to Arkansas.
The Bluejays will face North Dakota State on Saturday in a second exhibition before kicking off the season with an Aug. 23 match at Utah State, the first of nine nonconference games they’ll play before embarking on their first season in the new Big East.
Creighton’s first league game will come at home Sept. 26 against preseason favorite Marquette. Erickson knows things won’t get much easier after that as the Bluejays will be taking a step up in the level of competition they face in the move from the Missouri Valley.
“One of the things we’ve been preaching since we learned we were making the move in March is that we really can’t have an off day,” Erickson said. “In the Valley, we ended up walking our way through some wins.
“We have to be ready from the get-go. The players know there is going to be less margin for error and what they did in the spring and summer would be huge. We saw it in the games we had in spring. There was just a greater focus.”
Erickson and his players believe Creighton’s style of play will fit better in the new conference. Play in the Valley tended to side toward the physical.
“We haven’t changed too much, but we’re excited about the Big East,” Buckner said. “In the Missouri Valley, a lot of the teams are hard-working. In the Big East, a lot of the teams have more finesse.
“They’re hard-working, too, but they have a little higher level of play. We don’t play super direct. We like to play a little prettier, and I think that’s going to fit well in the Big East.”