It was two decades ago that one of Creighton’s soccer legends first heard chatter about the venue that he’ll now, finally, get to see on a game day.
So there will be an emotional element at play for Richard Mulrooney when he leads Memphis from the sideline at Morrison Stadium on Friday.
But you don’t become a college All-American and a 12-year MLS pro without some sort of competitive fire. Mulrooney will definitely cherish the evening — but he’d certainly like for his squad to take down his alma mater.
“I’m excited to be back, I really am,” said Mulrooney, who’s beginning his fifth year as the Tigers’ coach. “We played at Tranquility Park when I was at Creighton, so playing in this stadium will be my first time to be in there for a live game experience. Hopefully it’s a good one for us Friday night.”
There’ll be a silver lining for Memphis, though, regardless of the outcome, according to Mulrooney.
The more his team gets exposed to the top tier of college soccer, the better it will be, he said — particularly as he works to build a Tigers program that’s suffered two losing seasons over the past four years.
Even for Mulrooney, a player who was in on the ground floor of Creighton’s rise to prominence (he played on the Jays’ first College Cup team), a road trip to examine CU’s growth first will serve as a reminder of what he’s working to create.
“I sort of lived that blueprint,” said Mulrooney, whose Creighton career spanned from 1995 to 1998. “Even though I wasn’t necessarily taking notes, nor did I know I’d become a head coach someday, it just sort of absorbs into you. I feel like I’ve got that blueprint in my genes.”
He hasn’t lost his passion, either. That trait seemed to define him at Creighton — just ask former teammate Johnny Torres, the CU assistant who played three seasons with Mulrooney.
“He’s one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet off the field — but on the field, he’s an absolute beast,” Torres said. “I got to see both sides of that. As a teammate and an opponent. He’s the type of player who will not take no for an answer and will do everything to win.”
But that mentality helped make CU better.
Torres said he and Mulrooney would battle for hours on the racquetball courts back in the day — only they played with a soccer ball to refine their technique. They had a game on the basketball court where they’d team up and try to juggle as they maneuvered down the length of the floor, then somehow guide the soccer ball into the hoop before juggling their way back. Over and over, without letting the ball hit the floor.
Those are the types of memories that’ll hit Mulrooney this weekend. After Friday’s match, his Memphis team will play Utah Valley in a neutral-site game Sunday at Morrison Stadium. He’ll make the most of every moment.
“I’m very proud of the university and I’m very proud to say I’m from there,” Mulrooney said. “I think I have the best of both worlds because now I’m coming back with my hometown team, Memphis. It’s going to be fun.”
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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.