The last place that Elmar Bolowich figured he’d find his Creighton soccer team entering November would be with its back up against a wall.
But that’s where the Bluejays are heading into their final two regular-season matches. Creighton needs to win Saturday at home against DePaul and Friday at Providence to assure that it will be one of the six teams advancing to the Big East tournament.
“I thought we’d be deep enough and strong enough,” Bolowich said, “to do better with our schedule.”
It’s that schedule, a demanding test of nonconference matches mixed with the stiffer competition Creighton is facing in its new league, that Bolowich thinks has contributed to a stretch that produced three wins in nine matches after a 5-1-1 start.
Travel demands also have taken a toll on the Bluejays, who bring an 8-6-2 record into Saturday’s 4 p.m. match against the Blue Demons at Morrison Stadium.
“I look at our team in the early going and I know how we played when we were 5-1-1 against good teams and the energy that we brought and the fact that we could, if needed, shift into another gear to get a result,” Bolowich said. “All of a sudden, that was lost.
“We didn’t do anything majorly different. We didn’t change personnel drastically or our approach. It had to be something else.”
The Bluejays are 1-4-1 in their past six road matches, and senior Bruno Castro admits the road grind has factored into some tough times for CU, but he doesn’t want to use that as an excuse.
“Of course, it’s tiring and we’re missing class and then trying to catch up when we get back,” Castro said. “It has had an effect on our legs. There is a fatigue factor, but we should have worked through that and won more games.”
The fact that the Bluejays haven’t, Castro said, is probably due more to the youth of the team. He and Zach Barnes have been the only regular senior starters.
“We have had a hard time finding our rhythm,” Castro said. “I think we’re starting to overcome that and we’re coming together as a team. As long as we can keep doing that, we’re going to be successful as a team.”
Neither Castro nor Bolowich said the Bluejays have been overwhelmed by the competition after their move from the Missouri Valley to the Big East. Though Bolowich said the Bluejays’ margin for error has been reduced in the Big East.
“There were games in the Valley where we could play poorly and still win,” he said. “In the Big East, if you play poorly, you lose. Period. You have to bring it every time, and that’s another experience for us as a program.
“With our schedule in and out of the conference, we have to bring it every time, and that’s hard to do when you have 18 games in the span of 2½ months.”
Saturday’s match against DePaul (4-10-2) is the final regular-season home match for six Creighton seniors. All six started their career elsewhere, with Castro, Barnes and Carlos McCrary transferring from four-year schools, while Sean Kim, Benito Amaral and Sonny Makh joined the program after two junior college seasons.
Castro followed Bolowich from North Carolina and has been a part of the past two College Cup teams. The other five joined the program last season and played in the final four.
“We’ve accomplished a lot, and we’ve put everything we’ve had into this program,” Castro said. “We love this place and the fans, and we’re doing this for the people that came before us and the ones that will come after us.”