Creighton downs Tulsa 3-0 in first round of NCAA Tournament
The Creighton men’s soccer team got its revenge Thursday night at Morrison Stadium when it shut out the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa in the opening round of the 2016 NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament. The Bluejays used opening goals from defender Mitch LaGro and midfielder Myles Englis to jump in front of Tulsa before seeing out the game with a solid defensive performance from the backline and a third goal from Ricky Lopez-Espin.
Thursday’s game was much different than the previous one against Tulsa, a game in which Creighton lost on a late goal. The win forces the Bluejays to travel to Lexington, Kentucky to face the Wildcats of the University of Kentucky, a team that is seeded 16th in this year’s tournament. The seeding means the Wildcats earned a bye and will be the more rested of the two teams come Sunday when they face the Jays.
The game against Tulsa at Morrison Stadium began with a bang. The Bluejays earned a corner kick before Swedish midfielder Joel Rydstrand sent in a delicious cross where defender Mitch LaGro met the ball perfectly with his head, rocketing the ball over the head of Tulsa keeper Jake McGuire. The goal relieved some pressure and the Jays continued the attack. Just a couple of minutes later, the Bluejays found space down the right flank, where Luke Haakenson’s run and ensuing pass flew across the box and past McGuire where a waiting Englis hammered home the game’s second goal.
Tulsa head coach Todd McIntosh pointed to the second goal as key to their gameplan coming in. Said McIntosh of the difference between the first game and the second game, “We didn’t create as many good chances as we did in that [first] game. We didn’t get behind them as much as we did in the first game and didn’t cause them as many problems. Obviously the game changes when you concede two goals in the first few minutes, so after we did that we were way behind from where we wanted to be. . . and with the turf playing fast it makes it hard to get behind people. They might have played a little better than they did in their first game, too.”
Goal scoring opportunities came at a premium for Tulsa, who had nearly 20 shots in the two team’s first meeting in the regular season. The best opportunity of the first half for the Golden Hurricane came via Matthew Puig. The forward received a nice pass on Creighton’s right side of the penalty box before sending the ensuing shot yard over Alex Kapp’s goal. Other Tulsa opportunities were wasted as the assistant referee flagged them for offside on a few different occasions, one of which was controversial and a definite missed scoring chance.
The Bluejays spent the remainder of the first half finding teammates in acres of space. They were able to easily pass and chip balls in and around McGuire’s box, nearly making it 3-0 when Lopez-Espin received the ball in the middle of the box in open space before rocketing a shot to McGuire’s right, who was equal to it, sending the shot out for a corner.
The second half only continued to see more frustration from Tulsa. A play from forward Puig summed up the game for Tulsa in the 51st minute. Some nice passing down Creighton’s left flank led to a perfectly set up shot for Puig, who completely whiffed on the ball. It would have been a different area for Kapp to save, but there was no worry for the Creighton senior, who earned his 8th clean sheet of the season.
Creighton earned their third goal of the night when the game began to open up as Tulsa pressed for a goal. Lopez-Espin received a pass from Haakenson on the right side of the field before taking a couple touches and slotting home past McGuire. He had all day to pick his spot as Tulsa had no defenders near.
The remainder of the half saw things get a little bit physical. Fouls by Tulsa led to boos from the crowd late in the game. In addition Riggs Lennon had to be subbed off after sustaining an injury. After the game when speaking to White and Blue Review, coach Elmar Bolowich said Lennon is in a fair amount of pain after taking a knee to the kidney. He hopes to have the goal scorer available for Sunday’s game against Kentucky.
One of the best moments of the night came when Bolowich subbed off senior Alex Kapp with five minutes to play. The move was a chance for the crowd to give Kapp the standing ovation he deserved after transferring to the Hilltop from Boston College. Coming on for Kapp was local product Michael Kluver, who even was tasked with making a save with a couple minutes remaining.
The win moves Creighton into the round of 32 where they will face the Kentucky Wildcats on Sunday. Should the Bluejays advance past UK, they will take on the winner of Maryland and Big East member Providence.
See photos of the game from photographers Mike Spomer and Adam Streur.
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