Talk about tough starts: Nos. 6, 4 and 3 await Creighton men's soccer in first three games

Creighton keeper Paul Kruse knocks away a shot in a game in 2018 at Morrison Stadium. Creighton starts the 2019 season with games against three highly ranked teams. “We’re all looking forward to these games,” Kruse said. “These are really, really high-level (opponents). We’re excited to start the season off.”

Creighton’s 2019 season begins with a three-game tour of the top 10.

The Bluejays start on Friday with a road match at No. 6 North Carolina, which plans to welcome a presumably raucous crowd for the official unveiling of a brand-new stadium. Up next is a trip to No. 4 Wake Forest (19-0-1 in its past 20 regular-season home matches). CU will then have a home opener on Sept. 6 against No. 3 Akron (2018 NCAA runner-up).

So much for dipping a toe into the pool to test the waters in the first season with new coach Johnny Torres.

The Jays are diving headfirst into the deep end.

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But that’s how the players prefer it.

“We have the great ability to start off with three amazing games,” sophomore goalkeeper Paul Kruse said. “We’re all looking forward to these games. These are really, really high level (opponents). We’re excited to start the season off.”

It’s top-tier competition that will surely reveal Creighton’s strengths and weaknesses, perhaps even to a greater degree than what’s already known.

The Jays are working to replace the Big East’s top goal scorer from last year (Sven Koenig). Defensively, they conceded just two goals during three exhibition games, but two all-league defenders graduated — and they learned last week that senior defender Julius Fohr suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason.

The Creighton players insist that their standards haven’t changed. They’re aiming to snap a two-year NCAA tournament drought. They want to repeat as Big East champions.

But for now, they can’t look ahead. Some of the season’s biggest tests are coming up.

“We have to take things step by step,” senior defender Bryce Gibson said. “It’s one game at a time. And we take each as its own challenge.”

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