Creighton and Seattle each made some program history on a cold, snowy Thursday night meeting on the pitch.
The Redhawks, getting two goals from Miguel Gonzalez and stout goalkeeping from Jake Feener, pulled out a 2-1 victory in their first appearance in the NCAA soccer tournament.
“To do this in my senior year is amazing,’’ said Feener, who finished with eight saves. “For me and some of the other seniors that have been here for four years, it’s been a tough road. We had a couple of really tough seasons the last two.
“To make history by winning the WAC tournament and then to come here and get the result is huge for our university and huge for the team. It means a ton for me.’’
The loss, before 584 at Morrison Stadium, ended Creighton’s season at 9-9-2. It is the first time since the university resurrected its soccer program as a Division I sport in 1990 that the Bluejays end the season with a non-winning record.
What made it sting even more is that this loss was like so many others in a season that follows two straight trips to the College Cup.
“This game encapsulates our season,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said. “This game is what our season was. There was always adversity, we had to figure out ways to hang in and yet we had mediocre results doing it.”
And junior midfielder Eric Miller said the Bluejays have no one to blame but themselves.
“We just killed ourselves,” he said. “We found ourselves always making mistakes and letting teams we shouldn’t have been letting into games into games the whole year. Today, we missed chances and then they took advantages of their two chances.
“We lost more games than other teams won them.”
Players on both teams said the conditions — below-freezing temperatures, a howling north wind and light snow that coated the playing surface by halftime — had little impact on play.
“It really wasn’t too bad once we got into it,” Creighton midfielder Sonny Makh said. “The conditions are not why we lost the game.”
What did was the season-long inability to make the most of their chances. Creighton outshot Seattle 20-7 and had an 11-3 edge in corner kicks. Seattle put just three of its shots on goal but converted two of them.
“We let them hang around,” Bolowich said. “That match could have been over at halftime.”
It wasn’t because Feener came up with four saves in the first 45 minutes, yielding Creighton’s only goal on a fundamental mistake. Fourteen minutes into the match, a Seattle defender passed a ball back to Feener and the goalkeeper picked it up, a move that resulted in an indirect free kick.
Creighton forward Carlos McCrary snatched the ball away from Feener, placed it on the ground and quickly passed it across the field to a wide-open Makh.
“My eyes got really wide when I saw the open goal,” said Makh, who put away the shot from about 5 yards for his first career goal.
Seattle pulled into a tie at 30:39 when Gonzalez delivered his 14th goal of the season with a hard shot from about 10 yards out. Creighton missed a chance to regain the lead when Myles English was tackled just inside the box, resulting in a penalty kick with 25:48 to play.
Senior Bruno Castro, who had been 4 of 4 on penalty kicks in his career, sailed his attempt over the crossbar to keep the match deadlocked.
Gonzalez put his team ahead seven minutes later when he took a pass from Michael Roberts and beat Creighton goalkeeper Alex Bolowich with a high, arching shot from about 25 yards out that dropped in under the crossbar with 18:17 to play.
“The first shot I took earlier in the match, I saw that he struggled to get back,’’ Gonzalez said. “I thought if I put a little more power into this one, I might get him. It turned out well.”
Given the lead to protect, Feener came up with three of his four second-half saves in the final six minutes. He turned back shots by Makh, Timo Pitter and English, with two of the saves falling into the spectacular category.
“Coach tells me before games that you want to come up with one big save for the team,” said Feener, who leads the nation in total saves and saves per game. “He (Gonzalez) put away two goals and the defense fought all night. I just knew I needed to come up with those big saves.”
Seattle coach Peter Fewing quickly added, “We’ve seen Jake do that all season. That’s why we’re here.”
As well as why the Redhawks will take an 11-8-4 record to Washington for a Sunday match against the second-seeded Huskies. Seattle is 9-0-3 since dropping a 2-0 decision to Washington on Oct. 8.
“It’s one thing to get into the tournament but you have to prove yourself,” Fewing said. “To come and get a win at Creighton is memorable. We’re on to the next one but this one won’t be forgotten. This is something we’ll all remember.”
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Video: Highlights from Creighton-Seattle