The best way to describe the mentality of Creighton’s soccer team heading into Saturday’s match against Villanova is that the Bluejays are high on frustration and low on confidence.
Two goals in five matches have produced a 1-3-1 record that has dropped Creighton to 6-4-2 overall. The No. 1 team in the coaches poll in mid-September has dipped to No. 12. The Bluejays are closer in points to seventh place than first place in the Big East standings.
The players are looking for ways to pull themselves out of the midseason slump, but coach Elmar Bolowich said there’s really only one solution.
“We just have to keep going through the process, make sure everyone knows their role and keep playing the way we know how to,” Bolowich said. “If we do, things will fall into place.”
What has Bolowich slightly perplexed is that he thought his squad, which is still relatively young with two senior starters, might struggle out of the gate. But then the Bluejays scored 15 goals in the first seven matches, scoring wins over a pair of ranked teams in a 5-1-1 start.
“We were looking pretty sharp, but all of a sudden, that seems to be lost,” he said. “Normally it’s the other way around: You start slow and struggle in the beginning. Then, as the season progresses, you catch on.”
Creighton’s only goals in the past five games came in a 2-0 victory against Xavier on Oct. 5. The Bluejays have gone scoreless in their other four matches, playing Georgetown to a double-overtime tie and dropping 1-0 decisions to Saint Louis, Marquette and Michigan.
“This is pretty frustrating because we know we can do better,” said sophomore forward Timo Pitter, the Bluejays’ leading scorer with seven points. “We have to go back to where we’re doing the little things right and build on that.
“It’s just a whole bunch of things coming together. We aren’t doing the little things right, and then the big things obviously don’t work. We just have to pull the trigger, have a good game and go from there.”
Pitter and Bolowich agree that the Bluejays are, to a degree, suffering from paralysis by analysis.
“We just overthink everything,” Pitter said. “We just have to relax and do our game, because we know we can play soccer. We’ve shown it, and we just have to get back to that.”
In studying the videotape, Bolowich said, he’s seen plenty of examples of players overthinking the game. Other times, he’s seen them not thinking enough.
“And sometimes, they look just to be unsure,” he said. “There are times when we don’t make the right decisions, where we don’t recognize situations. This is a game where the players make the decisions on the field.
“We can’t call timeouts or choreograph a play quickly from the sidelines and then start executing. You have to trust the players. We just have to do a better job in practice to make sure our guys get a little more cohesive.”
Bolowich said the Bluejays probably are past the point where one good game might be enough to jump-start the offense.
“I think that in itself would just be a Band-Aid,” he said. “I think the essence is that we just need to find our stride over the long haul. We’re so used to being a dominant and effective team.”
A victory over Villanova in Saturday’s 7 p.m. game at Morrison Stadium would offer temporary relief. It would also move the Bluejays a step closer to qualifying for the conference tournament. Only the top six teams will advance.
“Right now, we’re just going in the wrong direction,” Pitter said. “We’re falling more and more into frustration, and we just have to find a way out of it. We will get out of it. It’s just a matter of time, in my opinion.”