Men’s soccer defeated by Creighton in NCAA tournament

By Brian Thomas

The run in the NCAA tournament came to a close Sunday for NIU men’s soccer.

The Huskies (15-6-0) were defeated at No. 2 seed Creighton 3-0 in the second round.

“Obviously, it’s hard, you don’t want your season to come to an end,” said NIU men’s soccer coach Eric Luzzi. “It still hurts right now, so it doesn’t feel great now. But I think in a couple of days, after the sting wears off, we’re going to look back and there is a lot to proud of this season.”

The Jays scored their first goal of the match in the 20th minute, on a one timer by junior Jose Gomez, who was assisted by Eric Miller and sophomore Bruno Castro for his fourth goal of the season.

Right before the half in the 43rd minute, Creighton doubled its lead when senior Ethan Finlay beat NIU junior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey for the goal. Finlay was assisted by junior Greg Jordan.

“It was a very competitive game,” said Creighton men’s soccer coach Elmar Bolowich. “We had the advantage going into halftime with the 2-0 lead, which made us a little more comfortable, and then finally were able to put the game away shortly before the end.”

NIU was not able to get a shot off until senior Francis Otira attempted a header with less than 10 seconds left in the first half.

The Huskies were out shot in the first half 7-1 due to the strong defensive play of the Jays.

This is the 17th shutout of the season for Creighton and its eighth in a row to lead the nation in shutouts.

“They do a very good job,” Luzzi said. “They defend from the front very well. They are very comfortable on the ball, and when they lose it, their forwards and mids do most of the defending before it even gets to the back line. They work very hard when they lose it and try to win it back or put pressure on the other team and they made it hard for us. They made it hard for us to connect passes and get out of our half.”

The Jays would add their third goal of the game in the 88th minute on a corner kick, when Finlay scored on a header on an assist from Castro and junior Jake Brown.

It was Finlay’s second goal of the match and his 13th of the season.

“We concentrated on set pieces and making the best of them,” Finlay said. “Bruno played a nice ball off the back post and Jake Brown got on the end of it. I was just kind of ‘Johnny-on-the-spot’ there and put the ball away.”

Creighton was the best opponent that the Huskies faced this season, Luzzi said.

“They are a very good team,” Luzzi said. “I think we caught them on their best day to be honest. We had seen them on video, and all the videos we saw were good, but they had not played like that all year. So we caught them on their absolute best day, and the reality is if they play four more games like that, they will probably win the national championship.”

The Huskies season is over, but they believe they have set the standard for what to expect from the program.

“I told the guys after the game, this is now the new standard,” Luzzi said. “I think having a 15 win season and a trip to the NCAA tournament is something unique and something special. I think it is now what we will expect from this team every single year.”