Creighton’s soccer players know the company line has to be that the No. 1 ranking the coaches awarded the Bluejays earlier this week means little at this point.
“People remember who wins the national championship,’’ defender Eric Miller said, “and not who’s No. 1 in September.’’
At the same time, there is a certain sense of pride and satisfaction that comes with seeing no team listed higher than your own in the rankings.
“It’s cool to be there,’’ midfielder Jose Ribas said. “We know that it doesn’t mean anything right now. Our goal is to finish up there in December. It’s good for the fans and that people recognize we’re doing a good job, but we know we have to keep working hard and improving every day.’’
For the first time in 14 seasons, Creighton will take the field Friday night as the nation’s No. 1 team in a 6 o’clock match at Old Dominion. Creighton also will face William & Mary on Sunday as it plays its first road games of the season.
Creighton started the season sixth in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s rankings but moved up to second after a pair of wins. Last week’s win over Columbia coupled with previously top-ranked North Carolina’s tie with Notre Dame — a team the Bluejays defeated in exhibition play — vaulted Creighton into the No. 1 spot for the first time since 1999.
Any mention of rankings at this time of the season is a sure-fire way to bring a scowl to Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich’s face. His only focus is on getting his team ready to play against an Old Dominion team that upset the Bluejays 2-1 in Omaha last season.
Creighton came into that match ranked second nationally and had a one-goal lead after the first minute and 48 seconds. Old Dominion then got two goals from Tim Hopkinson that spoiled the night for a record turnout of 6,848 at Morrison Stadium.
“They got the win that they needed,’’ Bolowich said. “It was an electric crowd that night, and they were in a position where they could only win regardless of the outcome of the game. Even if they had lost, it would have helped them from an RPI standpoint.
“They came here fired up and ready to go. They were a little more opportunistic on the day. We had a number of good chances, but we just didn’t do it.’’
Asked what Creighton must do differently against Old Dominion this season, Ribas smiled and replied, “We can’t let them win again. That was a great soccer game. We had a great crowd that night and we had chances to put that game away.
“That’s something we’ve been doing this season. We’ll score a goal, and we’re doing a better job of keeping it (pressure) on teams.’’
Creighton won its opening two games, 2-0 over Tulsa and 3-0 over Cal Poly. The Bluejays took a 1-0 lead against Columbia, which tied the game early in the second half only to see Creighton come back with two goals in a 10-minute span late in the half.
“We’re making good progress, but there is still a long way to go,’’ Miller said. “I don’t know if there is any one area that we’re that much better than we were a year ago, but I do think we are better off as a whole.
“I think our chemistry is a little bit better than it was at this point last year. We struggled with our chemistry for most of the season, to be honest. We have fewer new guys learning their roles this year, and I think that makes a huge difference.”
Miller and Ribas said the Bluejays are looking forward to playing on the road. Bolowich, too, is eager to see how his team adjusts to playing away from home, with the No. 1 ranking adding to the target already on the Bluejays’ back.
“I think every team always looks forward to playing a high-ranked opponent on its home field, whether that’s one, two, eight, nine or 10,’’ he said. “This is an RPI game, and you won’t slip much in the RPI even if you lose. In essence, you have nothing to lose.
“For the ranked team, you have to prove you deserve to be ranked in that spot. You can’t let the other team take the game away from you, and if you do, you’re not deserving of that spot.”
NOTES: Old Dominion has split a pair of matches, defeating High Point 3-2 in its season opener before falling 4-0 to William & Mary last week. … The Monarchs’ head coach is Alan Dawson, who once was an assistant coach at North Carolina under Bolowich.