he No. 2-seeded and No. 2-ranked Creighton men’s soccer team knocked off 15th-seeded UC Santa Barbara 2-1 in the third round of the NCAA Tournament Sunday afternoon at Morrison Stadium. The Bluejays scored twice in the first 20 minutes of the match and held off the Gauchos to move to the NCAA quarterfinals for the eighth time.
The Bluejays are now 13-0-0 at home this year and 20-2-0 on the season. The 13th-ranked Gauchos end their season at 15-7-1, including 4-5-0 on the road.
In a match up pitting the top defense in the NCAA (Creighton) against the third-highest scoring offense in the country (UCSB), the Bluejays were able to find the back of the net first.
Creighton took a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute when the Bluejays were awarded a penalty kick following a Gaucho foul which occured during a CU corner kick. During Bruno Castro’s corner kick in the eighth minute, Sam Garza was whistled for grabbing hold of two-time MVC Player of the Year Ethan Finlay in the box. Castro stepped forward to take the PK attempt and burried his first penalty attempt of the year for his sixth goal of the season.
The Bluejays again took advantage of another set piece just 11 minutes later. Jose Gomez sent a corner kick into the box. Greg Jordan headed the corner kick back to the middle of the goal mouth, where Andrew Ribeiro had plenty of space to fire a shot past UCSB goalkeeper Andre Grandt from close range.
Ribeiro’s fourth goal of the year also proved to be his fourth game-winner of the year. The Bluejays dominated possession against the Gauchos, holding UCSB without a shot on goal in the first half. CU outshot the visitors 12-5 in the first 45 minutes and had five corner kicks to just one from UCSB.
The score remained unchanged until UCSB’s speed finally earned a goal against the Bluejays in the 79th minute. Dom Sarle took a ball wide and sent a crossing pass to the far post, where David Opoku was able to knock in a header for his ninth goal of the season. The goal was the first allowed by the Bluejays since Oct. 15th, snapping an eight-game shutout streak and a school-record scoreless minute streak that reached better than 826 minutes.
The final 11 minutes were played at a frantic pass, while the final six minutes witnessed two yellow cards and two red cards issued. UCSB was handed a yellow card in the 85th minute, which caused one Gaucho assistant coach to protest to the point of a red card. Just three minutes later, UCSB’s Tim Pontius was sent off with a red card, giving the Bluejays a man advantage for the final 2:45 of play. CU’s Jose Ribas also received a yellow card in the final minute for delay of game.
The win gives the Bluejays 20 wins in a season for just the second time in school history and the first time since the 2000 team led the NCAA with 22 wins and finished as the NCAA runner-up. Creighton’s 13 home wins also ties the school record set by the 1993 team.
The trip to the NCAA quarterfinals will be the eighth for the Bluejays and their first since losing in the Elite Eight at Maryland in 2008. The Jays will be hosting a quarterfinal round for the first time in school history and will play three home matches in the same NCAA Tournament for the first time.
Creighton will host the winner of No. 7-seed South Florida (13-3-3) against No. 10-seed New Mexico (18-0-3) next Saturday afternoon at 1 pm. USF and UNM play in Tampa at 5 pm (CST). The Bluejays are the last team to defeat UNM, winning 4-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Omaha last year.