Creighton soccer players figured a top-20 RPI and a schedule that ranked in the top 10 made them solid candidates to land a spot in the 48-team NCAA tournament.
For a few brief moments Monday morning, the Bluejays were hoping they weren’t wrong.
Creighton was one of the last three teams announced when the NCAA unveiled the bracket for its Division I tournament.
“We had been talking that they would probably take four teams from our conference,’’ Creighton senior midfielder Zach Barnes said. “We figured Marquette, Georgetown and Providence were probably in, but when I saw St. John’s called, I thought, ‘Oh, man, we didn’t get in.’ ’’
The Red Storm, who didn’t qualify for the Big East tournament, made the field with a 10-6-2 record.
“When we finally saw our name come up, there was a pretty big celebration,’’ Barnes said. “I’m not going to lie, though, there was a little bit of doubt there for a while.’’
Creighton not only got in but will host a first-round game Thursday night against Seattle. The winner will advance to play second-seeded Washington, coached by former Creighton coach Jamie Clark, on Sunday.
The Bluejays will bring a 9-8-2 record into the 7 p.m. match at Morrison Stadium against a 10-8-4 Seattle team that earned the Western Athletic Conference’s automatic berth. It will mark Seattle’s first appearance in the national tournament, while Creighton will be making its 21st in the past 22 seasons.
The Bluejays’ past two appearances ended with trips to the College Cup, the sport’s final four. Creighton carried lofty expectations into this season and was No. 1 in the coaches’ ratings in mid-September.
But the Bluejays struggled during the second half of the season, and they lost their last two games to Providence. Still, Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich liked his team’s chances of landing a spot in the tournament.
“I thought we did enough to get in with the schedule we played and the results we have gotten,’’ Bolowich said. “And I felt like if we did get in, we would play at home. I was confident that we would not have to go on the road.’’
Creighton, which played the nation’s sixth-toughest schedule, had an NCAA RPI of 17 prior to Monday’s selection show. The Bluejays posted a 4-5-2 record against teams ranked in the top 50 in the RPI and did not play a team with an RPI below 150.
Seattle’s RPI is 123, and nine of the Redhawks’ 10 wins came in conference play.
Thursday’s match will be the first meeting between the schools, but two of the players will be very familiar with each other. The game will pit Creighton sophomore defender Brendan Hines-Ike against his older brother, Ian, a third-year sophomore midfielder.
“This is going to be exciting,’’ Brendan said. “You don’t often get a chance to play against your brother in a big event like this. This is going to be a nice moment for our family.’’
Ian Hines-Ike has scored three goals and has seven points this season after battling injuries that kept him off the field the past two seasons. Brendan has played 1,809 minutes this season in being one of the leaders of Creighton’s defense.
Brendan said his parents, Rick Ike and Louise Hines-Ike, are undoubtedly happy that the NCAA committee awarded Creighton the home match. The family resides in Littleton, Colo.
“If the match had been in Seattle, they probably wouldn’t have been able to make it with it being a midweek game,’’ Brendan said. “But our family will definitely be here for this one.’’