Creighton will try to turn around six weeks of up-and-down soccer in a six-day span beginning in the new Big East tournament on Tuesday.
The Bluejays face Providence in a 1 p.m. quarterfinal match at Providence, R.I. Win, and Creighton will move on to the semifinals in Philadelphia on Friday. Lose, and the Bluejays will return to Omaha to wait to learn of their NCAA tournament fate.
The latter scenario appeared far-fetched a month into the season. The Bluejays started 5-1-1, spent a week ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll and owned the No. 1 spot in the NCAA RPI rankings.
But since tying Georgetown on Sept. 28, Creighton has lost six of 10 matches, including dropping a 2-1 decision to Providence last Friday. The victory enabled the Friars to lock up fourth place in the standings and a first-round home game in the tournament.
Creighton finished in fifth place and must now win Tuesday and Friday in order to get to the tournament’s championship game on Sunday at PPL Park in Philadelphia.
Creighton brings a 9-7-2 record into the quarterfinal match but still appears in contention for a NCAA berth, win or lose, based on its No. 17 ranking in this week’s RPI. The Bluejays’ schedule also is rated the eighth-toughest in the country.
Providence is 11-4-2, and its win over the Bluejays enabled the Friars to climb 10 spots in the RPI rankings to No. 26.
In order to reverse last week’s outcome, Creighton will need to find a way to generate more offense than it did in the first meeting with Providence. The Friars outshot Creighton 18-6, and the Bluejays were able to put just one of their attempts on goal.
That came in the 79th minute when Myles Englis scored to tie the match. Providence, which scored its first goal on the penalty kick, then got the game-winner from Mac Steeves in the 84th minute.