After anxiously waiting for a week, men’s soccer was selected Monday with an at-large bid to compete in the 2021 NCAA College Cup and will play at 17-1 Missouri State on Thursday.
The Jays narrowly scraped into the tournament, this being their first College Cup appearance since 2016, as the team ended the regular season with an 8-7-2 record but a No. 26 RPI ranking and No. 8 schedule strength rating.
The Jays battled with solid nonconference opponents, three of which also made the tournament, and the third-ranked men’s soccer conference in the Big East who also sent four other teams to the tournament.
The Jays also had several great wins on their tournament resumé, such as their road win against No. 1 Indiana and their victory over No. 16 Providence to close the regular season.
Senior forward Diego Gutierrez led both the Jays and the Big East in goals and points, and received the honor of Big East Offensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive year. Gutierrez was also chosen unanimously for the All-Big East First Team.
Gutierrez wasn’t the only Bluejay to be recognized for his excellence, though, as senior midfielder Callum Watson earned All- Big East Second Team. Midfielder Charles Auguste and goalkeeper Paul Kruse were two seniors who also earned All-Big East Third Team.
Creighton’s last match was on Nov. 6 and the team has been nervously practicing since then as their fate was in the hands of a committee who would decide if the Bluejays were one of the teams qualified enough to compete in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
“I think we were all anxious on the team,” Gutierrez said. “We didn’t really want to wait a whole week to hear our name get called, but it was worth it in the end and I think we’re all excited.”
Tournament berth looked extremely un- likely for the Jays at certain times during the season. They held a record of 1-4-1 six games in, with a tough conference slate in front of them.
However, the Jays were able to win seven of their next ten matches, including ending the regular season on four straight wins.
“They deserve it. We’ve talked all season long about what a rough start we came off to,” coach Johnny Torres said. “But they’ve since worked tremendously hard and I think they deserve this moment.”
The selection for the College Cup is the first in Torres’ time as head coach, although he does have experience in it with the Jays in all four years as a player and nine times as an assistant coach.
With their fate in their own control, the Jays got their hearts broken in the first round of the Big East Tournament after Villanova came back and scored two goals in the last 15 minutes to take down the Bluejays 2-1.
“That’s the great thing about our group, that we just stick together, as we’ve seen for the entire season that even through the lows no one is quitting,” Kruse said. “Everyone sticks with each other, everyone works with each other, and that’s what we’ve done after the loss against Villanova.”
The Bluejays are no strangers to Missouri State, their former Missouri Valley Conference foes. The Jays own a 20-9-4 series lead over the Bears, but the last time they met favored Missouri State 2-0 just last season.
As the team in the tournament with the least wins (8), the Jays face the difficult task of upsetting the tournament team with the most wins (17) on Thursday, Nov. 18 at 6:00 p.m. The winner will play No. 6 overall Tulsa who the Jays narrowly lost to at home earlier this season.