Sven Koenig could score goals. The Creighton coaches were convinced of that.
But the veteran striker needed a reboot this past offseason — because there were lulls too often during his debut campaign, when that potential was rendered dormant as he struggled to find his place within CU’s attack.
The Jays’ staff figured that the spring would serve as the perfect time for an adjustment.
And Koenig was all for it.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.
The German native embraced the arduous practices, asking regularly for feedback while emerging as a leader for Creighton. He said it was exactly what he needed.
“The spring helped a lot, just for me, learning the game system, how we defend,” Koenig said. “I know now what we want to do. It’s been easier for me as a forward to get into the game, score goals and be part of the team.”
The results are showing.
Koenig leads CU (and the Big East) with six goals — which is already four more than the two he put in the back of the net last season. He was responsible for all three of the Jays’ scores last week, and he earned the league’s player of the week award for his efforts.
And Koenig will be essential to the strategy for No. 9 Creighton (7-1-1) Tuesday, when the Jays host No. 4 Denver for a top-10 showdown. The undefeated Pioneers (8-0-2) are led by Andre Shinyashiki, the nation’s top goal scorer who has already set the school’s Division I single-season scoring record (19 goals).
So it’s likely that CU’s going to have to score some Tuesday to keep up with Shinyashiki and Denver’s sixth-ranked offense.
Koenig will be right in the mix. He has been all year.
And that might be the biggest difference for Koenig, according to coach Elmar Bolowich. He said Koenig looked, at times, like he was alone “on an island” last season, unable to fit his skill set within CU’s scheme. Now, Koenig’s connected — and you can tell by the runs he makes, his positioning in the box and the chances he helps create for others.
“He just could not get over that hurdle — so we had to just shove him over it,” Bolowich said with a chuckle. “That’s really what we did (in the spring).”
It’s why Bolowich said he and his staff aren’t surprised by Koenig’s play this year.
They could always tell Koenig cared. It’s clear that he’s smart, too. Plus, the kid scored 30 goals in two years at Division II Hawaii Pacific before transferring to Creighton.
But a certain playing style was previously ingrained. Koenig had to reinvent his approach.
It just so happened that he wasn’t alone last spring. The entire CU program was motivated to improve off last year’s disappointment after the Jays missed the NCAA tournament.
They appear to be on the right track after winning six straight matches. They just have to keep it going.
“It was a lot about mentality, that we all develop this hunger,” Koenig said. “Because we know we have a lot of quality on this team. We didn’t translate it on the field last season. So the spring was really about developing as a team and developing the right mentality to win all these games.”