Four Creighton players, stunned after yet another tantalizing moment, clasped their hands behind their heads. A couple stared skyward in disbelief.
Their teammate’s shot early in overtime had just skimmed off the left hand of Denver’s goalkeeper. So close.
It was just one of several threatening advances orchestrated by a CU team that controlled possession in the match.
But this sport often gives you only so many chances before the unthinkable knocks you flat on the turf.
And the Jays ran out of chances Tuesday.
A defensive miscue set up Denver’s winning goal in the 105th minute, clinching a top-10 showdown in climactic fashion for the visiting Pioneers (9-0-2). The 1-0 double-overtime defeat snapped a six-match winning streak for No. 8 Creighton (7-2-1) and ended its 14-match unbeaten streak at Morrison Stadium.
“We lost in the 90 minutes of not scoring goals ourselves,” coach Elmar Bolowich said. “You’re setting yourself up. You just do that when you don’t score goals — on your home field, on top of that.”
The Jays outshot their opponent 25-8. They had a 14-0 edge in shots during the final 45 minutes of regulation.
But No. 5 Denver was dropping back 10 of its players into the field’s back third all match, seemingly uninterested in pressuring CU’s defenders and midfielders as they advanced the ball and initiated their offense. The Pioneers routinely utilized a five-man back line.
Denver never lost its composure, either, even with six freshmen on the field. The Pioneers, battling injury in several key spots, started a sophomore goalkeeper who had played just 12 minutes all year.
They couldn’t even create consistent windows for the nation’s leading scorer, senior Andre Shinyashiki. He entered Tuesday with 19 goals — he had just two shots Tuesday.
“For them to be able to be resilient, be positive and be together — I’m really proud of my group,” Denver coach Jamie Franks said.
The persistence paid off in the end.
It was a mishit on a clearance attempt by CU senior Mitch LaGro that left a loose ball at the feet of Denver’s Stefan DeLeone, who took one dribble before guiding home a sharp one-hopper past goalkeeper Paul Kruse to secure the win.
A devastated LaGro flopped to the ground as a shirtless DeLeone jumped into the arms of a teammate. Many of the other CU players on the field stood motionless afterward as well.
The Jays had been so close to initiating a bench-clearing celebration of their own Tuesday. Denver did enough to prevent that, though. Then it capitalized on its chance.
“I thought we were well in control of the game, but Denver is exactly that team that is just patient to hang in there,” Bolowich said. “They’re just waiting for their one opportunity to pounce on you. And we gave it to them.”
CU will return to action Saturday at St. John’s.
Denver (9-0-2)..............0 0 1—1
At Creighton (7-2-1).......0 0 0—0
Goals: 1, DU, Stefan DeLeone (unassisted) 104:40. Shots: DU 8, CU 25. Shots on goal: DU 4, CU 7. Saves: DU, Will Palmquist 7. CU, Paul Kruse 3. Fouls: DU 16, CU 16. A: 3.076.