PEORIA, Ill. – Nine Creighton men’s soccer players were honored by the Missouri Valley Conference at the tournament banquet held at the WeaverRidge Golf Club in Peoria Thursday night. Junior forward Ethan Finlay was named the MVC Player of the Year, freshman defender Tyler Polak was tabbed the MVC Freshman of the Year and head coach Jamie Clark led the MVC Coaching Staff of the Year it was announced Thursday.
Clark and assistants Johnny Torres and Jeff Rowland were aided by volunteer assistant Robbie C’deBaca, student assistant Michael Kraus and graduate manager Matt Wieland. The Bluejays also shared the MVC Fair Play Award with Drake this year, as both teams had only four yellow cards during conference play.
Finlay is the 10th player in school history to be named the MVC Player of the Year, but just the third Bluejay junior to pull in the honor. He joins Brian Kamler (1992) and Ross Paule (1996) as Creighton juniors to win the award, both previous junior winners went on to enjoy successful MLS careers. Finlay began the week tied for the MVC lead with 12 goals to rank eighth in the NCAA, while his league-leading 28 points ranked 11th in the nation. His 12 goals and 28 points are the most by a Bluejay since Mike Tranchilla in 2002.
Polak’s honor marks the third straight season a Bluejay has been named the MVC Freshman of the Year, following Acoff (2009) and Holt (2008). Polak has played the most minutes of any Bluejay field player this season, not coming out of a match until the 84th minute of CU’s 16th game. His play in the back has helped the Bluejays log eight shutouts this season.
Acoff, a sophomore midfielder, leads the MVC and ranks ninth in the NCAA with nine assists this season. Six of his nine assists this year have come in the last nine matches. Gomez, another sophomore midfielder, ranks second on the team and MVC with his eight assists, which ranks 19th in the NCAA. His four goals and 16 points are second on the team, while his 16 points rank third in the MVC.
Jordan, a third sophomore midfielder is on the MVC first-team, as his play as a defensive stopper has been key in slowing the opponent’s attack this season. The third-year player redshirted last year due to injury, but has returned to start all 16 matches he’s played in, contributing three goals and seven points. Deremer, a senior defender, rounds out Creighton’s first-team honorees. The Omaha native has held the backline together this season, despite several personnel changes due to injuries. This central defender has a career-best four assists, while helping the Bluejays log a 0.91 goals against average.
Holt, a repeat honoree on the MVC second-team, has set the school record for career shutouts in just his third season. The junior goalkeeper has played all but nine minutes this season, logging seven shutouts and posting a 0.92 goals against average. His 27 career shutouts are a school record and his next clean sheet will set the MVC record.
Castillo is Creighton’s fourth midfielder to earn all-conference honors, notching his second career second-team honor (2008). The senior has started 16 of CU’s 17 matches this season, contributing one goal and one assist from his defensive midfield slot.
Kelly has played in 15 of CU’s 17 matches this season, including all seven conference matches. His only point on the season was an assist on Finlay’s game-winning overtime goal at Evansville on Oct. 16.
The Bluejay coaching staff (pictured below) also won Staff of the Year honors in 2008 and the Jays last won the Fair Play Award in its initial year of 2006 (shared with Western Kentucky). First-year Bluejay head coach Jamie Clark led the Bluejays to their 10th MVC regular-season title this season. Clark and staff guided the Bluejays into the top-10 of the national rankings this season, after they were not receiving any votes in the preseason.
The 12th-ranked Bluejays will start play in the State Farm MVC Tournament Friday at 6 pm, when they play host and fifth-seed Bradley, which defeated Drake 1-0 in the opening round of the event on Wednesday night. The Jays are in search of their 12th MVC Tournament crown and looking to earn double championships for the seventh time.