OMAHA, Neb. – The Creighton men’s soccer team battles No. 20 Stanford in its season opener inside Morrison Stadium at 7 p.m. CT Friday.
The match marks the season lidlifter for both Creighton and Stanford on the 2014 slate. Both squads went undefeated in their two exhibition openers in preseason. The Jays doubled up No. 20 Wisconsin 4-2 in Omaha on Aug. 22.
The Bluejays and the Cardinal claimed NCAA Tournament bids in 2013. Stanford opens this year at No. 20 while CU received votes in the 2014 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Preseason Top 25 Poll. The Jays are 10-3-4 against ranked opponents in the last three seasons.
The Bluejays are 3-2-0 all-time against the Cardinal. The programs have played some significant matches in the past 20 years including a double-overtime College Cup semifinal match in 2002 that Stanford claimed 2-1. The Cardinal also was the opponent for the third-largest Morrison Stadium crowd of 5,743 during a 2005 exhibition match.
Creighton will honor men’s soccer alumnus Keith DeFini at halftime of Friday’s match.
8/31: vs. Santa Clara, 7 p.m. CT – Morrison Stadium
What’s at Stake
· Creighton seeks to extend its unbeaten streak of 5-0-2 in season-opening matches after knocking off another ranked team, No. 14 Tulsa, to begin last season.
· Stanford is looking for its first win in Omaha after a 4-0 loss to the Jays in 1996 in its only other regular season appearance.
Following the Jays
Fans can follow all of the action Friday by clicking on the live stats button at GoCreighton.com or follow @GoCreighton on Twitter. A live (pay-per-view) video stream link can also be found on GoCreighton.com.
Scouting the Creighton Bluejays (2013 record: 9-9-2, 4-4-1 BIG EAST)
Creighton begins the season against a ranked time for the second year in a row when it takes on Stanford Friday evening.
CU finished the preseason at 1-0-1 after a 4-2 win over No. 21 Wisconsin on Aug. 22. Freshman Ricky Lopez-Espin scored a pair of goals against the Badgers including the game winner. Senior Jose Ribas and junior Timo Pitter also scored for the Jays. Junior Connor Sparrow played a full 90 minutes in net, allowing two goals and making a pair of saves.
Creighton placed third in the 2014 BIG EAST preseason poll as CU senior Jose Ribas and junior Timo Pitter earned recognition on the Preseason All-BIG EAST Team. Ribas was also listed at No. 41 in the TopDrawerSoccer Preseason National Top 100 released earlier this week.
Overall Creighton returns its top four scorers from last season in Pitter, sophomore Fabian Herbers, Ribas and junior Christian Blandon. Redshirt senior Sean Kim also returns after an injury in 2013. Kim scored six points over five matches last season.
The Jays also return both goalkeepers from last year in redshirt senior Alex Bolowich and junior Connor Sparrow. The goalies combined for a 1.09 goals against average and six shutouts in 2013.
Five 2013 All-BIG EAST selections return for the Jays including Pitter, Ribas, Herbers, Hines-Ike and sophomore Ricardo Perez. The Bluejays welcome 11 newcomers to the squad but lose the services of 2014 MLS Draft selections Eric Miller and Zach Barnes.
Stanford finished 2013 ranked in the top 25 after advancing to the third round of the NCAA Tournament - the Cardinal’s first postseason appearance since 2009.
At the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Stanford defeated Loyola Marymount and No. 15 Cal State Northridge before falling 1-0 on a late goal at No. 2 Washington.
Stanford was picked to finish third in 2014 Pac-12 Preseason Coaches’ Poll, garnering 18 votes and one first-place vote behind favorite UCLA and Washington.
In the 2014 preseason, the Cardinal defeated Saint Mary’s 3-1 in their final exhibition match at home on Aug. 23 after blanking Bakersfield 1-0 earlier in the week.
On Thursday, Stanford sophomore forward Jordan Morris was among 22 players called into camp by U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for the upcoming friendly against the Czech Republic on Sept. 3 in Prague.
Morris leads all returning players from last season with seven assists distributed last year. He also scored six goals to total 19 points, good for second on the squad as a freshman.
Senior forward Zach Batteer returns as the team’s leading scorer from last season, after posting nine goals and 21 points a year ago.
Junior Brandon Vincent and freshman Corey Baird earned preseason recognition from TopDrawerSoccer. Vincent was one of four defenders earning a spot on the Preseason Best XI Third Team while Baird was one of five midfielders tabbed to the Freshman Team.
Sophomore Andrew Epstein played over 88 minutes in the last exhibition match. He replaces departed senior Drew Hutchins in goal for the Cardinal this year.
The Bluejays are 3-2-0 all-time against the Cardinal; the Jays won the last meeting between the schools.
Creighton claimed a 1-0 decision in Palo Alto on Sept. 19, 2008. CU alumnus Ethan Finlay scored that game-winning goal in the 83rd minute.
In a 2002 College Cup national semifinal the Jays battled Stanford into double overtime, but the Cardinal scored with just two minutes remaining to end Creighton’s season with a 2-1 defeat in Dallas.
The only previous visit to Omaha by the Cardinal ended in a 4-0 shutout in favor of the Bluejays on Aug. 31, 1996.
Last Time Out
The Creighton men’s soccer team upended No. 21 Wisconsin 4-2 in the Bluejays’ final exhibition match of the season inside Morrison Stadium on Aug. 22.
CU freshman Ricky Lopez-Espin scored the game-winner in the 58th minute on a feed from Herbers to give the Jays a 3-1 lead. Lopez-Espin added another in the 64th minute on an assist from fellow freshman Noah Franke to make it 4-1.
Creighton never trailed in the contest as Ribas opened the scoring in the eighth minute to put the Jays up 1-0. Ribas crushed the ball from distance, shortly after Wisconsin could not clear a corner kick, past a stunned goalie.
Pitter scored off of a free kick from just outside of the box in the 25th minute to put Creighton up 2-0. That score held up into halftime.
Creighton’s Connor Sparrow played a full 90 minutes in net, allowing two goals while making a pair of saves.
The BIG EAST men's soccer coaches selected Creighton to place third in the 2014 preseason poll. CU garnered one of the 10 first-place votes to help total 63 overall points. The league’s two ranked teams, No. 9 Georgetown and No. 12 Marquette, were tied atop the poll for first place with 75 points apiece. The Hoyas edged the Golden Eagles 5-4 in first-place votes.
Despite finishing last season in fifth, the Pac-12 coaches slotted No. 20 Stanford to finish third in the six-team conference. No. 4 UCLA claimed the top spot in the league followed by No. 6 Washington.
Tough 2014 Slate
The Bluejays’ 2014 schedule features five regular-season contests against 2013 NCAA Tournament teams, including four from the Jays’ nine-match BIG EAST conference slate. CU also hosted No. 21 Wisconsin in an exhibition match.
The Jays’ will host 12 opponents and travel to play six other squads in the 2014 regular season. The slate is highlighted by nine matches against teams that finished among the top 50 in the final 2013 NCAA RPI; six of those are home contests.
Starting in mid-October, Creighton will face the other four BIG EAST squads that advanced to the NCAA Tournament last year in a span of just under a month to close out the regular season. The Bluejays battle three opponents that advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2013 including No. 9 Georgetown, No. 12 Marquette and No. 20 Stanford.
Ranked Foes in 2014
Creighton is one of four BIG EAST programs to receive votes from the NSCAA in the 2014 preseason poll. The other conference schools in the poll include No. 9 Georgetown and No. 12 Marquette. St. John's received 10 votes in the rankings while the Jays netted 14 votes.
In addition to the trio of contests against BIG EAST foes that received votes, Creighton's schedule involves three other teams that earned votes in the poll. The Jays open the regular season at home against No. 20 Stanford on Aug. 29. Two other 2014 non-conference foes also claimed votes in Saint Louis (10) and Tulsa (5).
2013 in Review
Creighton finished last year unranked on a three-game skid after compiling a 9-9-2 overall mark following an NCAA Tournament First Round setback against Seattle.
CU played a lot of tight matches in 2013 as each of the Jays’ nine losses came by a single goal. The Bluejays completed their first season in the BIG EAST Conference with a 4-4-1 mark and a fifth-place finish.
The Jays climbed as high as No. 1 in the 2013 rankings on September 10 – the first time since 1999 that CU held the top spot. Overall, the Bluejays found themselves ranked in nine NSCAA weekly polls during the last regular season.
Fourth-year head coach Elmar Bolowich leads the Jays in their quest for the program’s 22nd NCAA Tournament appearance in the past 23 seasons in 2014. Creighton returns 13 letterwinners and eight starters from last year's team.
Inaugural BIG EAST Season Review
Creighton ended its conference season in Providence with a pair of 2-1 setbacks to the Friars in the regular-season finale and a BIG EAST Championship quarterfinal match.
CU never dipped below the .500 mark in conference and toggled between wins and losses over its last five league matches. Overall, Creighton won three of its last five regular-season matches after a three-game scoreless drought in mid-October.
The Jays were 3-1 at home in BIG EAST matches beginning with a 1-0 overtime defeat of St. John’s in its conference debut (Sept. 21), a 2-0 win over Xavier (Oct. 5) a 1-0 overtime setback to Villanova (Oct. 19) and a 5-1 victory over DePaul (Nov. 2) on Senior Day.
The Bluejays’ road record in conference was deceiving at 1-3-1 last season. All three losses were settled by a single goal. In fact the only two league matches not decided by a single goal or less last year were CU victories over Xavier (2-0) and DePaul (5-1) at home.
Creighton finished 2-2-1 against the fellow 2013 BIG EAST tournament teams. The Jays tied No. 1 seed Georgetown in Washington D.C., lost at No. 2 Marquette and at No. 4 Providence while defeating No. 3 Xavier 2-0 at home and No. 6 Butler 3-2 on the road.
CU was 2-6-1 in true road contests in 2013 including a 1-3-1 mark in conference.
Jays Rank Among the Top 10 in Home Attendance for 11th Straight Season
With 27,156 fans attending matches last season, Creighton ranked sixth nationally in total home attendance. The Jays finished fourth in average home attendance in 2013 at 2,716 fans per contest.
Over 5,200 fans witnessed Creighton’s 1-0 double-overtime defeat of No. 7 St. John’s in the Jays’ BIG EAST debut on Sept. 21 at Morrison Stadium. The crowd of 5,282 ranked as the sixth-largest crowd ever to attend a collegiate match at the Bluejays’ home. The match also ranked No. 10 in single-game attendance nationally last season.
The total edged out a contingent of 5,102 Bluejay faithful that witnessed CU defeat Columbia 3-1 earlier in the season on Sept. 6. That crowd ranks No. 7 all-time in the Creighton record books for single-match home attendance.
Creighton is now 5-7-1 in front of 5,000-plus fans since 2000.
At then-No. 22 Saint Louis on Oct. 2, 3,070 fans packed Hermann Stadium to watch the Bluejays battle the Billikens last season. It marked the largest crowd in a regular-season true road contest to see the Jays play since 5,648 fans saw CU visit then-No. 3 Maryland on Sept. 30, 2011.
In 2012, then-No. 2 Creighton fell 2-1 to then-No. 14 Old Dominion on Sept. 14 in front of 6,848 fans – the top home crowd all-time at Morrison Stadium.
Jays Achieve No. 1 Ranking for the First Time in 14 Years
Following a 3-1 victory over Columbia on Sept. 6, 2013, Creighton became the top squad in the nation according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll released four days later.
It marked the Jays’ first time back in the top spot since September 1999. Creighton was ranked as high as No. 2 in each of the last three seasons including last fall.
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