Creighton’s 2011 season came to a end in the College Cup semifinals Friday night at Regions Park, with a shootout loss to Charlotte. The Bluejays played to a scoreless draw with Charlotte through 90 minutes of regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtimes, before the 49ers kept their season alive and ended Creighton’s in a 4-1 shootout victory.
The shootout defeat ends Creighton’s first season under head coach Elmar Bolowich, who was appearing in his fifth College Cup while leading the Bluejays to their fourth appearance in college soccer’s final four. The Bluejays end the year with a 21-2-1 record, with Friday’s resulting going in the record book as a draw. The shutout was Creighton’s 19th of the year, falling one shy of the NCAA record, while CU’s 0.20 goals against average on the year set an NCAA record. Senior All-American goalkeeper Brian Holt also set an NCAA record by posting a 0.206 GAA to top the former mark held by Northern Illinois’s Joe Zimka (0.207).
Creighton had plenty of opportunities to score in regulation, but could not find the back of the net, playing to its first draw of the season, while getting held without a score for just the third time in 2011.
The closest Creighton came to scoring after halftime came in the 61st minute, when Ethan Finlay’s header hit the cross bar off of a corner kick from Bruno Castro.
As it had done all year, Creighton carried the possession throughout most of the match, not allowing a Charlotte shot in the second half until the 76th minute. From that point though, the 49ers would take the final six shots of the contest, including four in regulation. The 49ers didn’t create a dangerous shot attempt until the 85th minute, when Holt denied a shot from Giuseppe Gentile.
Holt’s save in the 99th minute kept Creighton’s season alive, as he turned away a blast from Donnie Smith after the 49er had carried the ball deep into the Bluejay defense. After an early 49er shot in the second overtime, Creighton owned most of the run of play for the final nine minutes, but the Bluejays could never get a shot off.
In the shootout, the unseeded 49ers and No. 2-seeded Bluejays exchanged goals in the first round, with Bruno Castro converting for the Jays. After Isaac Caughran hit his attempt for Charlotte, which glanced off of Holt, Kris Clark stepped up. The Bluejay senior’s shot was stopped by Charlotte’s Gavin Dawson, who entered in net solely for PKs. The 49ers again scored on their third attempt, before Finlay stepped up and sent his attempt high. Isaac Cowles then sent the 49ers to the NCAA title match by converting Charlotte’s fourth shot.
Through the first half, the Bluejays put a few scoring chances on net, but Charlotte goalkeeper Klay Davis was up to the challenge stopping three shots and using a teammate to stop another. One of Creighton’s best scoring chances in the opening half came off of a corner kick in the 32nd minute, when Andrew Ribeiro connected on a header from Castro’s serve, but Davis made the save.
That save on Ribeiro’s header came 11 minutes after the Jays had back-to-back shot attempts, the first by Jose Gomez. Gomez unleashed a shot, but it was stopped by a 49er defender. The 49ers then knocked the ball off the crossbar while trying to clear it and Finlay collected a rebound at the top of the box and ripped his shot just left of the frame.
Creighton was making its fourth appearance in the NCAA College Cup, its first since losing to Stanford in double overtime in 2002. The Bluejays end the season on a 12-match unbeaten streak, having entered the semifinals on an 11-match winning streak.
The Bluejays will lose five senior starters from this year’s team – Finlay, Holt, Andrew Duran, Greg Jordan and Jace Peters, while Clark also played in his last match for the Bluejays on Friday night.