Creighton’s soccer team left Omaha on Thursday on a trip that features an open-ended itinerary.
Win Friday’s final regular-season match at Providence, and the Bluejays could be back in Omaha on Saturday. Lose the match, and Creighton could be on the road until Nov. 17.
“I’ve told our players to pack all they’ve got,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said, “and hope we’re bringing it all back two days later.”
The No. 25 Bluejays (9-6-2) enter Friday’s match against Providence in fifth place in the new Big East, two points behind the fourth-place Friars. A Creighton win would reverse the teams’ spots in the standings and give the Bluejays a first-round home game in the conference tournament.
A Providence victory would mean Creighton would play its first tournament game on the road, either in a rematch with the Friars or at Georgetown. First-round winners advance to the Nov. 15 semifinals in Philadelphia, with the championship match set for Nov. 17.
“If this materializes, just from a financial point of view, it would be substantial,” Bolowich said. “It also would be from the academic side. Academically, we are high-level schools that pride themselves on graduating their athletes and their students.
“Here we are, almost being in a scenario where we might have to take more than a full week off of school.”
Of course, the Bluejays can avoid that scenario by knocking off Providence, which brings a 5-3 conference record and an overall mark of 10-4-2 into the noon match. Creighton is 4-3-1 in league play, but has won two of its last three conference matches by showing some improved firepower.
The Bluejays hit a midseason slump in which they scored two goals in a span of six matches. Creighton has scored 12 goals in winning three of its past four games, with one being a nonconference meeting with former Missouri Valley rival Drake.
In discussing the recent scoring surge, Bolowich doesn’t discount that the Bluejays’ last two opponents — Drake and DePaul — probably aren’t at the same level as some of the teams they were playing when they couldn’t buy a goal.
Creighton scored twice against Drake and hammered DePaul, the league’s last-place team, for five goals last Saturday.
“But you also can make an argument that what we’ve seen in these games is that the guys are really trying to put it together,’’ Bolowich said. “That’s more what I’m leaning toward, that we are seeing improvement and more cohesiveness with our attack.
“We are seeing an interaction between groups of players on the field where we find the balance and we’re playing more to our style.”
In spite of its midseason struggles, Creighton is still in good shape to land a spot in the NCAA tournament with a NCAA RPI ranking of 15th this week. The outcome of the Bluejays’ next two matches, Bolowich said, could be vital in determining where they wind up in the NCAA tournament bracket.
Lose Friday and in the first round of the tournament, he said, and the Bluejays are probably looking at playing a first-round NCAA match on the road. Win both matches to make it to the conference tournament semifinals and Creighton could have a good chance of getting a first-round bye and a second-round home match.
“The committee usually looks at the performance of a team at the end of the season,” he said, “and it would look good if we lost to the same twice at the end.
“I think even if we lost to Providence twice, we’d still be a strong contender for the playoffs. The committee looks at the RPI as a means of rewarding teams that play strong schedules, especially when you do it on the road.”
The bottom line is that Creighton still controls its own destiny in terms of how the final weeks of the season shake out.
“We have to look at it from the positive side,” he said. “Win these two games, and we’re in the Big East semifinals against another strong RPI team. Win or lose, you’re probably getting a bye and a home game.”