One goal down, more in range as Jays wrap up regular season vs. Hoyas

Creighton’s Big East regular-season championship “is a good first step,” said senior defender Akeem Ward, above. The Jays wrap up the regular season tonight, then prepare for the Big East tournament.

Creighton’s men’s soccer players took the field Saturday with every intention to win, but they picked up even more motivation once they heard about the final score of another match out east.

St. John’s had upset Georgetown, the team in second place in the league standings.

And suddenly, as they assembled  at halftime, the Jays realized they could actually clinch a Big East title right there on that Saturday — as long as they could finish off DePaul.

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It was a chance they couldn’t waste. But those final 45 minutes sure weren’t easy.

“We were struggling a little bit,” junior defender Julius Fohr said. “You try to just focus on your game and try to win your game. In the end, we did.”

CU (11-3-2, 7-0-1) held on for a 2-1 win over the Blue Demons and clinched its second conference title since joining the Big East. Creighton’s other regular-season league crown came in 2014.

The bench players rushed the field after the final whistle — a few brought some water bottles with them to joyously spray about. The team celebrated with hugs and high-fives.

It felt good, Fohr said.

The Jays had set the goal in the spring, when the coaches were challenging the team to be mentally tougher and to play with more passion. They reinforced their objectives when they gathered early this summer — the players-only practices before the preseason helped develop a unified purpose.

They were faced with some midweek disappointments (losing to Denver and Akron), but they suppressed the disappointment and reset in time for another league test on the weekend.

“It’s a big accomplishment for us, but it’s just one step toward a bigger goal,” Fohr said. “That was our first goal. We achieved it. But now we focus on Wednesday. And then the Big East tournament.”

There’s still plenty at stake when No. 14 Creighton hosts Georgetown (9-4-3, 5-2-1) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

The Jays (ranked No. 26 in the RPI) are still looking to boost their postseason résumé. It would be a point of pride to finish league play without a loss — the Hoyas’ 9-0 record in 2015 marks the only time a team has completed conference action unbeaten since the new Big East was formed.

Bottom line is there’s still more work to do.

“We can think, all right, we’ve got something now — but let’s build off of this,” senior defender Akeem Ward said. “We’ve accomplished one of the goals that we wanted to accomplish. It shows that we’re doing the right things, day in and day out. But we’re not done yet. This is a good first step.”

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