Last year, Creighton won one Missouri Valley Conference championship. As in the entire athletic department, all seven teams, counting both regular-season and tournament titles. The softball team captured the Valley tournament title and the automatic NCAA Tournament bid.
This year, the Jays are one for one.
The Creighton women’s soccer team locked up the MVC regular-season title in rather dramatic fashion on Thursday night at Morrison Stadium. Sophomore Brittney Neumann scored the golden goal midway through the first overtime in the 2-1 win.
“That was awesome,” Neumann said. “What a great win.”
But don’t ask her to break down the game-winner.
“It’s all kind of a blur,” she said, understandably. “It was a great pass from Andrea [Zuniga], I think, and I just took a touch and shot it.”
Headed into the match against Illinois State, the Jays knew the following: win and they’re outright MVC champs; a tie, coupled with a Missouri State loss to Evansville, would result in an outright MVC title; a tie, coupled with an MSU win, would result in a shared MVC title (with the Bears) and a No. 2 seed in next weekend’s Valley Tournament; a loss would mean no Valley title and the possibility of not receiving a top-two seed, which comes with a first-round bye.
Got all that?
Things were looking grim for CU when, in the 50th minute, Illinois State was awarded a penalty kick and Mara Kremenovic beat Creighton goal keeper Alicia Montgomery, putting the Redbirds on top 1-0. The Jays, however, were awarded a penalty kick of their own in the 78th minute, and junior Erin Gunther, who hadn’t practiced all week while nursing a foot injury, put her attempt into the back of the net.
It was now 1-1, and Evansville, though getting badly outshot, had kept Missouri State off the scoreboard. But only a few minutes later, the Bears got on the board. The MSU score was announced over the Morrison Stadium public address system toward the end of regulation, and the sense of urgency ratcheted up a notch. Shortly thereafter, the Creighton-Illinois State game headed to overtime, and the Missouri State-Evansville game ended with a 1-0 MSU win.
Five and a half minutes later, the entire team was rushing the field after Neumann’s goal; “We Are the Champions” began playing over the speakers; the team was posing for a picture in front of the goal.
13-3-2 overall, 5-1-0 in the MVC, Valley champs. But you wouldn’t know it from talking to head coach Bruce Erickson.
“We made it exciting,” he said. “I felt like we had a couple great chances early on, and it could have been a game that we blew wide open. But we didn’t. We started giving the ball away. Illinois State just played better than us, outworked us, pretty much in all phases.
“And then Brittney scores the winner in overtime. That capped off a crazy night. It wasn’t our best performance, but we did enough to win. Hopefully we got this off our back now and we can go win two games next weekend.”
But the players – they’re excited, right?
“We still have a tournament to win,” said Neumann. “We’ve just got to work hard, and we’re guaranteed to win games. We didn’t connect on as many passes as we should, so we’ve got to work on that.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do for the tournament.”
All business, I guess.
Creighton will receive a bye to the semifinals of the Valley Tournament as the No. 1 seed, and will play either Evansville or Drake on Nov. 5 at Morrison Stadium.