The 2011-12 season has been anything but dull for Creighton University athletics.
The past year has seen triumph and heartbreak, championships and elimination, a return to prominence and controversy. The Jays have brought home three conference championships, played in three NCAA Tournaments, cracked the top 25 polls in two sports and racked up countless conference honors.
The 2011-12 athletics campaign kicked off with a bang as the men’s soccer team began its first season with new head coach Elmar Bolowich at the helm. The Jays, tabbed No. 10 in the NSCAA preseason poll, dominated all year long en route to a historic season.
The Jays were led by preseason All-American picks senior forward Ethan Finlay and sophomore defender Tyler Polak along with record-setting senior goalkeeper Brian Holt and posted a 21-2-1 record en route to the school’s fourth appearance in the College Cup, college soccer’s final four.
Creighton finished the regular season with a 16-2 record before hosting and winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Jays won their first three games in the tournament before a shoot-out defeat at the hands of the University of North Carolina Charlotte 49ers ended their season.
Finlay ended his career fifth in school history and seventh in conference history with 43 goals and was named the MVC player of the year as well as a first team All-American, but it was Holt and the Jays’ defense that made the team so successful.
The Jays recorded 19 shut-outs on the year, coming one shy of the record of 20. Creighton lead the nation in wins, shut-outs, goals against average and save percentage. Holt ended his career at Creighton with 44 clean sheets, tops in the NSCAA record books and was also awarded the Lowes Senior CLASS award.
“The team played a great season, very consistent, and set a very high standard for future squads to follow,” Bolowich said of his team’s season.
The Jays have a lot to replace after losing eight players to graduation and the MLS draft including Finlay, Holt and Polak, but the Jays have several key players returning and are poised for another successful season in the fall.
The women’s soccer team had a winning season as well, as head coach Bruce Erickson led his squad to a 9-6-3 overall record. The Jays were the preseason picks to repeat as MVC champions, and they had a shot at the title heading into the final game of the regular season against the Illinois State University Redbirds. Creighton lost, however, and entered the MVC Tournament as a No. 3 seed. The Jays hosted the University of Northern Iowa Panthers in the first round of the tournament, but fell in a shoot-out.
The Jays graduate nine seniors, including goalkeeper Alicia Montgomery and forward Andrea Zuniga. The class finished with a 49- 22-8 record, the best four-year span in school history. Junior forward Brittney Neumann will return next season to lead the Jays.
The volleyball team led by head coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth finished with a 17-14 overall record and 12-6 record in MVC play. The Jays earned the No. 5 seed in the MVC Tournament and were upset by No. 7 seed Illinois State in the first round.
As the fall season ended, the winter season arrived and with it came even more success for the Creighton Bluejays.
The men’s basketball team put forth one of the best efforts in school history, recording a 29-6 overall record, spending most of the season in the top 25, winning the MVC Tournament and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Jays were the preseason pick to win the MVC. Led by head coach Greg McDermott, the team got off to a 21-2 start before suffering a three-game losing streak late in the conference season.
The Jays finished second in the MVC before winning the MVC Tournament in St. Louis and advancing to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 8 seed. Creighton knocked off the No. 9 seed University of Alabama Crimson Tide in their first game before falling to the Midwest Region’s No. 1 seed University of North Carolina Tar Heels in the third round.
“Playing against North Carolina was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” senior walk-on guard Ross Ferrarini said of the team’s tournament run. “It was definitely epic.”
The Jays spent most of the season in the top ten in the country in many offensive categories, and finished the season seventh in points per game, second in assists per game and first in field goal percentage.
The Jays were led by All-American and Naismith finalist sophomore forward Doug McDermott, who finished third in the nation in scoring at 23.2 points per game. McDermott was named MVC player of the year – the first time a sophomore has ever earned the honor – and was named to All-MVC first team. The Jays racked up several other honors as well, including junior center Gregory Echenique winning MVC Defensive Player of the Year.
Senior point guard Antoine Young will graduate after an esteemed career with the Jays, but the team will return nine rotation players as well as add two freshmen who redshirted this year. Creighton is the favorite to win the MVC again next year and is poised to make another tournament run.
The women’s team went through an up-and-down year, but closed out the season in strong fashion by winning the MVC Tournament and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
The Jays ran out a very inexperienced team, with only one senior and two juniors, and struggled to find their stride early in the season. Complicating matters was a preseason injury to sophomore guard Carli Tritz who hadn’t fully recovered from the injury before the season began.
But the Jays won five of their final six games heading into the MVC Tournament and carried that momentum over into the postseason, winning the tournament and earning a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Jays were given a No. 14 seed and faced off against the No. 3 seed St. John’s University. The Jays almost pulled off the upset, but lost on a last second layup by the Red Storm.
Senior forward DaNae Moore is the only player who will not return next season, and the Jays look set to defend their title behind Tritz and classmate forward Sarah Nelson.
The spring season is in full gear for Creighton. Softball, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis, men’s and women’s cross country and crew are all in full gear right now.
The 2011-12 season was one of much success for Creighton athletics. Based on the state of many of the school’s programs right now, 2012-13 could be even better. It is a good time to be a Bluejay.