Johnny Torres was there on the night four years ago that Creighton’s senior midfielder first arrived in Omaha.
Torres picked up Joel Rydstrand at the airport and gave him a quick driving tour of the city. They talked about the CU campus and the program. Torres had the newcomer from Sweden thinking a bit, and laughing some, and mostly just feeling at ease.
The bond only grew after that. And Rydstrand’s certain that most of his teammates could share a similar story about the connection they’ve formed with Torres, whose personable nature and caring spirit resonate with players.
So even though Rydstrand’s Creighton career has ended — he won’t get to experience CU’s next chapter firsthand — he’s pretty sure he knows what future Jays players can expect from a coach like Torres.
“He’s very interactive, making sure you’re all right,” Rydstrand said. “But if you’re doing something wrong, he’ll tell you straight up. He doesn’t hold back, which brings another dimension into the relationship. If you can both praise and also tell someone they’re doing something wrong, I think that’s a good attribute to have.”
Torres, a former Bluejay star and a 12-year assistant, was named Creighton’s coach Monday.
He replaces Elmar Bolowich, who resigned Monday after eight seasons. Bolowich has accepted a job as the executive director of Armada Youth FC in Jacksonville, Florida. Bolowich, the all-time winningest coach at North Carolina, led the CU program to two College Cups and four regular-season league championships.
It’s a leadership change that was announced just a few hours after the Jays learned they’d missed the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
Creighton won the Big East regular-season crown and spent most of the 2018 campaign ranked in the coaches Top 25 — but its résumé lacked quality wins and its 2-2-2 finish proved costly. CU participated in 24 of 25 NCAA tournaments from 1992 to 2016.
Torres said in a statement that Monday was an “emotional” day.
“I’m sad to see (Bolowich) go and I was lucky to be able to learn from such a tremendous man,” Torres said. “With that being said, I’m very excited and happy for the opportunity to be at the forefront of one of the best programs in the country, and a special one in that it’s my alma mater.”
Torres earned national player of the year honors in 1996 and 1997, ending his CU career as the Missouri Valley Conference’s leader in scoring and assists.
After returning to Creighton’s campus and joining the staff in 2007, Torres was named the national assistant coach of the year in 2012. He received regional assistant coach of the year awards in 2011, 2012 and 2015.
Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen said in a statement that Torres has “earned” this promotion.
Ross Paule, the four-year women’s soccer coach, would agree. He and Torres were teammates on the Jays’ first College Cup team in 1996. Paule’s watched Torres’ growth ever since.
“He’s such a great fit for it, and he deserves it,” Paule said. “He puts all of his effort in making a difference. He’s going to build character, and really help set up these boys for success in life.”
Torres’ first on-field challenge will be trying to replace the Big East offensive player of the year (Sven Koenig) and the league’s midfielder of the year (Rydstrand). Four other seniors, including captain and second-team all-conference defender Mitch LaGro, have also departed.
Plus, CU’s coaches were just recognized as the Big East’s top staff after the 2018 regular-season run. But Bolowich said in a statement that it’s the “right time” for him to move on.
Torres will take charge now. He’s likely to make an impact on the guys right away, according to Rydstrand.
“I’d be discussing games with him and he’s saying he hasn’t been able to sleep the last two nights after a loss,” Rydstrand said. “He’s very passionate, both as a coach and as a human being. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him.”
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No. 25 Ty-Shon Alexander, men's basketball: He could be in store for a breakout season. The Jays are looking for someone to help fill the shoes of Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas. Why not Alexander? Click here to read more.
No. 24 Taryn Jakubowski, women's soccer: She’s usually the hardest-working player on the field, and her evolution as a scorer will be something to watch. The Jays will be relying on her again this season. Click here to read more.
No. 23 Naomi Hickman, volleyball: There’s a vacancy in the middle of Creighton’s alignment, and Hickman would be well suited for the role. Click here to read more.
No. 22 Jacob Epperson, men's basketball: He has quickness, agility and hops. He is still working to add strength. But the ceiling is incredibly high for the Australian. Click here to read the story.
No. 21 Olivia Elger, women's basketball: She had two 20-point games last year. She scored in double figures in eight of the final 13 games. Her 44.2 shooting percentage from 3-point range was tops on the team. Click here for more.
No. 19 Luke Haakenson: The junior midfielder was responsible for one of the most thrilling moments of the year — when he sprinted behind Tulsa’s defense, won a one-on-one battle with the goalkeeper and guided home a game-winner in overtime. Click here to read more.
No. 18 Nate Vontz: His breakout moment might have come this summer. Competing at the Indian Creek Invitational, Vontz set a course record with a 6-under 66 on one day. Click here to read more.
No. 17 Kuba Polat: The sophomore midfielder attempted nine shots last year, recording one goal and four assists. Click here to read more.
No. 16 Mitch Ragan: He produced a 1.97 ERA over his last five outings, striking out 34 in 32 innings. Click here to read more.
No. 15 Mitch Ballock: He averaged 11.6 points per game during the Jays’ final five contests — which was third-best on the team behind Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas. Click here to read more.
No. 14 Kiele Miller: If Creighton is going to build off its second-place Big East finish, it’ll need Miller to carry over her successes to 2019. Click here to read more.
No. 13 Ashley Ishimura: She went 15-5 for CU — losing just once in her final 14 matches. She earned a spot on the All-Big East second team. Click here to read more.
No. 12 Isaac Collins: Collins has spent his summer showing off his skills in the Cape Cod League. He batted .308 (11th-best in the league) during the regular season, leading his team with five stolen bases and finishing second with 27 runs scored. Click here to read more.
No. 11 Ashley Cantu: Cantu scored 45 runs — her rate of 1.05 runs scored per game ranked ninth nationally. Click here to read more.
No. 10 Davion Mintz: He showed flashes of his potential toward the end of his sophomore season, averaging 9.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists his final five games. Click here to read more.
No. 9 Megan Ballenger: She serves, blocks and (occasionally) sets. Ballenger’s hitting percentage (.304) was third on the team last year. Click here to read more.
No. 8 Joel Rydstrand: He is Creighton’s top returning point scorer — that’s largely based on his ability to create chances for others. Click here to read the story.
No. 7 Brittany Witt: The reigning Big East libero of the year will patrol the back row again. Her intangible impact — she always brings high energy and effort — will help the Jays remain on the right track. Click here to read the story.
No. 6 Will Robertson: The Jays will need a slugger at the center of their lineup. Robertson fits the mold. He’s in store for a special 2019 season. Click here to read the story.
No. 5 Jaylyn Agnew: A versatile defender (able to guard multiple positions) and a skilled scorer (she shot 40.1 percent from 3-point range last season). Click here to read more.
No. 4 Martin Krampelj: He averaged 15.2 points and 10.8 rebounds, shooting 66.0 percent from the floor in his first five league games. Click here to read more.
No. 3 Audrey Faber: She had two 30-point games last season, and five of 20-plus. She was sixth in the Big East at 14.8 points per game. Click here to read more.
No. 2 Taryn Kloth: She was at her best at the end of last season, averaging 3.08 kills per set and hitting .329 during the final 10 matches. Click here to read more.
No. 1 Jaali Winters: The program’s all-time kills record is likely to be Winters’ by the end of the season. She’s already fourth in school history. Click here to read the story.