Shutting out Drake on Wednesday night would have been enough to put a smile on the face of Creighton soccer player Eric DeJulio.
The fact that the sophomore defender chipped in the first goal in the Bluejays' 2-0 nonconference victory over the Bulldogs was merely icing on the cake.
“I'm always more excited about the defensive performance,” DeJulio said. “Any time we can get a shutout and a win, I'm fine with that. Goals are just added bonuses.”
DeJulio headed in a corner kick from Timo Pitter to give the Bluejays a 1-0 lead 15:52 into the match. Creighton got another score 11 minutes into the second half when Christian Blandon delivered his third goal of the season.
DeJulio also helped spearhead a defensive effort that limited Drake to four shots, and goalkeeper Connor Sparrow stopped both of the attempts on goal as the Bluejays improved to 8-6-2 before 937 at Morrison Stadium.
A 2-5 stretch that followed a 5-1-2 start for Creighton has left the Bluejays with little margin for error as they've hit the stretch run of the regular season.
“The coaches kept reiterating during training this week that every game is a playoff game in essence from here on out,” said Sparrow, who improved to 2-1-1 with the win. “Every game is important for getting confidence back, for the RPI and all that stuff. It's just always good to win.”
Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said he liked how his team responded after dropping a 3-2 decision to Seton Hall in its last match. The Bluejays will need to put similar solid efforts together in their final two Big East matches to assure themselves of a spot in the conference tournament.
Wednesday's performance, Bolowich said, was a good start to what he hopes will be a strong finish.
“We came out and took control of the game,” Bolowich said. “We could have perhaps scored a few more goals with opportunities on counterattacks where we just need to be more calm in finding the right pass.
“We could have made the game a little easier on us, but in the end, we had to start somewhere. Progress was made. Drake is a good team, in the top 50 in the RPI. So this was a good win for us.”
The loss against its old Missouri Valley rival dropped Drake to 8-6-3. Bolowich downplayed any significance that familiarity with an old opponent played in the outcome.
“At this point, it's an out-of-conference opponent for us and a good one to play,” he said. “We had a lot to worry about ourselves in this game, so I think the players responded in the right way.'
DeJulio's second career goal and first this season allowed Creighton to take the lead on a night when the elements — a biting north wind and light mist — made for less than ideal conditions.
“We haven't done a spectacular job throughout the year of getting ahead early and hold the lead,” DeJulio said. “I had a great service by Timo on that corner, and I just put my head on it and scored.”
Solid passing by Jose Ribas and Pitter set up Blandon's shot from seven yards out that made it 2-0 at the 56:16 mark.
Overall, Bolowich was pleased with the defensive effort.
“We did a good job as a unit,” he said. “Individually, everyone played their part and overall, as a team, we did a good job of defending.”
Sparrow's previous three starts came when No. 1 goalkeeper Alex Bolowich was injured.
“Connor deserved to play; he's showed well in practice,” Elmar Bolowich said. “It had nothing to do with Alex. Connor's already saw some during the year, and we know he's a quality goalkeeper. It was just a matter of the rotation.”
The Bluejays will now close their home schedule with Saturday's 4 p.m. match against DePaul. Creighton, which sits fifth in the league, will close the regular season with a Nov. 8 match against Providence.
“We needed this one a lot,” DeJulio said. “We've worked hard the whole year, but we haven't been able to get the results. To come out tonight and play a really well-rounded game was great, a real confidence booster.”
Drake (8-6-3) ............................ 0 0—0
At Creighton (8-6-2) ............................ 1 1—2
Goals: 1, CU, DeJulio (Pitter), 15:52. 2, CU, Blandon (Ribas, Pitter), 56:16. Shots: DU 4, CU 13. Saves: DU, MacLeod 3, Gallagher 0; CU, Sparrow 2. Fouls: DU 4, CU 5.
Video: Creighton soccer highlights