With the season on the line, Creighton freshman goalkeeper Paul Kruse bounced up and down on his toes and across his goal line in an effort to psych himself up before an attempt to extend the penalty shootout one more round.
In the end, Kruse hardly moved a muscle as a low rifled shot found its way into the bottom right corner of the goal.
Had Kruse guessed correctly and dived to his right, it would have been extremely unlikely for him to stop the shot from finding its way into the back of the net to propel the No. 4 seed Marquette Golden Eagles (7-8-3) to the Big East tournament championship and leave the Bluejays wondering if they still had a place in the NCAA Tournament. In the end, Creighton was left out.
Junior midfielder Josh Coan won the 12-round penalty shootout for the Golden Eagles on Wednesday night. His winning penalty was the 8th consecutive conversion for Marquette; Creighton had made seven penalties in a row before junior midfielder Julius Fohr’s chipped effort hit the crossbar and bounced over the goal in the previous round.
Following the winning penalty kick, Marquette players rushed onto the field at Morrison Stadium and ecstatically celebrated a hard-fought victory. Creighton, devastated by the result of the match, was forced to stand by and watch as a conference rival celebrated on its home turf.
The Jays outshot Marquette 25-10 and had a 9-3 edge in terms of shots on target. Creighton also dominated the match in terms of possession and positive plays.
“If you don’t score the goal you need to, that’s what happens,” Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich said.
“You put yourself in that situation. We should have finished that game a lot earlier.”
Because the Jays were unable to win the Big East title, their hopes of making the NCAA tournament relied on claiming one of the 24 at-large bids offered to teams that don’t automatically go to conference winners.
The Bluejays won the Big East regular-season title, but their at-large resume had holes. After a strong regular season, Creighton struggled massively in its final six games going 2-2-2 despite four of those matches being played at home. With their semifinal loss to Marquette, the Jays saw their RPI ranking drop below the top 30.
Despite not making the NCAA tournament, the Bluejays have several awards to their name including a Big East regular season title, senior forward Sven Koenig winning Big East offensive player of the year, and senior midfielder Joel Rydstrand taking Big East midfielder of the year. Five players were named to All-Big East teams this past season.
The Bluejays end their season at 11-4-3 overall, with a 7-1-1 record in the Big East.