Creighton avoided a Saturday afternoon dogfight with lowly DePaul by kicking the Blue Demons early and often.
Fabian Herbers scored three minutes and 36 seconds into the match, and his teammates added two more goals before halftime to all but seal the 5-1 Big East victory before 1,637 at Morrison Stadium.
Winless in conference play, DePaul (4-11-2, 0-7-1) came into the match having been shut out in its previous two games. Still, the last thing Creighton wanted was to let the Blue Demons hang around and perhaps gain some momentum that might carry them to an upset.
“One of the things we talked about was being ready from the beginning,” Creighton sophomore forward Timo Pitter said. “We knew if we could get some goals early it would break them down.”
Herbers complied, heading in a crossing pass from Christian Blandon to give the Bluejays a quick lead. Pitter made it 2-0 at 31:14, heading in Vincent Keller's cross, and Myles Englis scored his first career goal by collecting a rebound of Carlos McCrary's point-blank shot and knocking it into the open net.
“They key was getting up 3-0 at halftime,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said. “We had put the game out of reach at that point, and then we scored another quick goal in the second half.
“It was good to see our offense clicking and putting things together.”
Jose Ribas' unassisted goal four minutes into the second half made it 4-0. After DePaul scored on a penalty kick, Pitter scored his second goal to close out the scoring.
After going through a midseason stretch in which they scored just two goals in a span of six matches, the Bluejays have 12 goals in their past four matches.
“When we were having trouble finding the back of the net in that one stretch, it started to wear on some of our attacking players,” Bolowich said. “Timo was a perfect example of that.
“But he's kicked it up a notch. ... Some of other guys have been playing with more confidence, too.”
Creighton (9-6-2, 4-3-1) clinched a spot in the conference tournament. The fifth-place Bluejays will play at fourth-place Providence in the regular-season finale Friday.
Wins in three of its past four matches have reenergized a team that never seemed to lose its confidence even during a rough stretch.
“The games we lost were one-goal games,” Creighton senior Zach Barnes said. “We were one play away from winning or one play away from getting a tie. It's not like teams were blowing us out.
“We never lost any belief in what we can do as a group. Other teams were just making plays, and we weren't.”
With one of the six slots in the conference tournament locked up, Pitter said the Bluejays can now focus on continuing to build momentum for a strong finish.
“We know we can still have a great season,” he said. “If we can win against Providence, we could get another home game. We just have to keep thinking positive. We've seen again that we can play soccer, that we have really good individuals and a really good team.”
Saturday's match was the final regular-season home appearance for Barnes and Creighton's five other seniors — McCrary, Bruno Castro, Sonny Makh, Benito Amaral and Sean Kim. A win over Providence would bring the Bluejays back to Morrison for a quarterfinal match.
“Hopefully, we can get the result so that we can come back here and have the home-field advantage,” Barnes said. “Our fans are really good, and it can be a pretty intimidating spot to play.”