OMAHA, Neb. -Ethan Finlay delivered a golden goal in the 97th minute, as the No. 2-seeded Creighton men's soccer team defeated No. 7-seeded South Florida 1-0 Sunday afternoon at Morrison Stadium. The goal moved the Bluejays into the fourth College Cup in program history and their first since 2002. Senior goalkeeper Brian Holt stopped three shots, all from Big East Offensive Player of the Year Dom Dwyer to set an NCAA record with his 43rd career shutout.
Just minutes after Finlay sent perhaps his best scoring chance of the match just left of the goal, he was able to capitalize on another opportunity in the 97th minute. Andrew Ribeiro ripped a shot attempt from outside the 18 yard box, but the shot deflected off of a USF defender and right to the Bluejays' senior All-American. The two-time MVC Player of the Year turned and fired, sending his shot into the lower left side of the goal to further ingrain himself into Creighton men's soccer lore.
The game-winner was his team-leading 14th goal of the season and his sixth game-winner of the year. The score was also his sixth career NCAA Tournament goal, tying him with Brian Mullan and Mike Tranchilla for the school record. His 20th career game-winning goal served as his third overtime game-winner.
The victory preserved the second perfect home season in school history, as the Bluejays finished 14-0-0 in Omaha, setting a school record with their 14th home win.
After a tightly contested first half, which saw 19 fouls whistled and Creighton outshoot the Bulls 6-3, play settled down in the second half. The Bluejays controlled most of the play in the second half, outshooting USF 11-3 in the second half and 3-0 in overtime. Only seven total fouls were whistled in the second half after a very physical first stanza.
Dwyer was contained for a majority of the match by Bluejay senior defender Jace Peters, but the Bulls' leading scorer was able to put three shots on frame after halftime. All three of his shots came in a seven minute span, including his first shot on goal on a long free kick in the 62nd minute, which was followed 21 seconds later from close range. Dwyer moved deep into the 18-yard box on his final shot attempt as well, but Holt, the new NCAA record-holder for shutouts, turned him away again.
Creighton would outshoot its visitors 20-6 in the NCAA Quarterfinal match, and own a 10-2 edge in corner kicks.
Holt, the Omaha native playing in his final home match, posted his 43rd career clean sheet, 25 of which have come at Morrison Stadium. The MVC Goalkeeper of the Year lowered his NCAA-best goals against average to 0.22. Holt moved out of a tie with Indiana's T.J. Hanning and Bowling Green's Scott Vallow to own the NCAA career record with 43 shutouts.
Creighton's 18th shutout of the season moves the Bluejays to the fourth College Cup in program history, having also advanced this far in the NCAA Tournament in 1996, 2000 and 2002. The victory also returns Creighton head coach Elmar Bolowich to his fourth straight College Cup and his fifth overall.
Creighton will face unseeded Charlotte (16-4-3), after the 49ers moved past No. 3-seed Connecticut with a 4-2 shootout victory on Sunday afternoon at UConn. The Bluejays and 49ers will kickoff at 5 pm in the first semifinal on Friday, with No. 1-seed North Carolina facing No. 13-seed UCLA in the second match of the day. The winners will face off the the NCAA championship on Sunday at 3 pm. Every match at the College Cup will be televised live on ESPNU.
NOTES: This match was originally scheduled for Saturday at 1 pm, but was postponed following heavy snowfall throughout Saturday in Omaha, field crews worked all night to clear the field and have it ready for a 1 pm Sunday kick ... Creighton leads the NCAA with 21 wins, 18 shutouts, 0.21 goals against average and 92.3 save percentage ... CU finished 14-0-0 at home this year, besting the 1993 team's 13 home wins and the 1998 team's 8-0-0 home record ... Creighton outscored opponents 28-2 in Omaha this year, posting 12 home clean sheets and a 0.14 home goals against average ... Creighton tied the school-record with its 15th straight home win ... CU has allowed just five goals this year, outscoring opponents 40-5 ... Creighton has won 11 straight matches, its longest streak since 2000, when that team won 11 straight to reach the MVC title match ... The final eight wins during this 11-game winning streak have come at home ... CU improved to 20-2-1 against the NSCAA top 25 at Morrison Stadium, USF was ranked 12th in the final regular-season NSCAA poll ... CU improved to 10-1-0 in NCAA Tournament matches at Morrison Stadium ... The match was just the second December contest Creighton has played at home in school history ... Finlay now has 43 career goals, tied for seventh in MVC history ... Sunday's 1-0 win was Creighton's 10th 1-0 victory of the season ... Bolowich led North Carolina to the College Cup in 2001 (NCAA Champions), 2008, 2009 and 2010.