Elmar Bolowich came away from his Creighton soccer team’s victory over St. John’s encouraged by the way his offensive players played defense.
The willingness of the Bluejays’ forwards and midfielders to get involved on the defensive end played a key role in the 1-0, double-overtime victory in the team’s Big East opener.
“Our urgency in defensive transition was much better than it’s been,” Bolowich said. “By that I mean our guys did a better job of getting into position once we lost the ball.
“That had been a little bit of an issue in some of our early games, but it was certainly an obvious issue in the loss to William & Mary. We put the responsibility on the players to clean that up, and they did.”
Bolowich hopes to see additional growth in that aspect of the game Tuesday night when the fifth-ranked Bluejays (5-1) face Michigan State (4-1) in a 7 p.m. game at Morrison Stadium.
The win over St. John’s came six days after the Bluejays had lost 3-2 in double overtime to William & Mary. Creighton’s previous match, a 2-1 win over Old Dominion, also carried into the second overtime.
That’s one reason Bolowich expects to do some lineup juggling against a well-rested Spartan squad. Michigan State has not played since Wednesday’s win over Bowling Green.
“We have to be smart enough to start integrating some players in that haven’t seen much playing time, and that has nothing to do with Michigan State,” Bolowich said. “It’s just the right moment to do such a thing as we look at ourselves and try to continue to improve.
“It comes down to managing your team and making sure your players don’t lose their legs at the end of the season or at midseason or risk injury by overplaying them. It’s making sure we use the 18 to 20 players that can play for us right now.”
Bolowich has used at least five substitutes in each of Creighton’s six matches this season.
“There’s no question our depth can help us,” he said. “And, let’s not forget, we’re still basically a young team. We’re playing the four freshmen we have back last year, and other freshmen we brought in are playing.
“We only start two seniors. At this moment, we have some positions where we can double up and rotate players in and out.”
Michigan State, which made it to the second round of last season’s NCAA tournament, has posted four shutouts in its first five matches. One came in a 2-0 win over Marquette, picked third behind Georgetown and Creighton in the Big East preseason poll.
“I’m expecting a really good match,” Bolowich said. “They like to play and move it fast, just as we do.”
That’s another reason the coach wants to see the same kind of defensive performance he saw against St. John’s.
“We always want to be the type of team that transitions quickly,” he said. “The good thing is that the players know that. We showed them the videotape of the William & Mary game and showed them times where maybe we were lacking in effort.
“It was something that was across the board, with younger players and older players. To their credit, they worked on what we wanted to do and showed a greater focus against St. John’s.