Creighton - Four Star Recruiting Class - Creighton is without a doubt one of the top venues in the country in men's soccer. When Creighton hired Elmar Bolowich prior to the 2011 season they likely sought to make a statement of sorts. Veteran head coach Bob Warming left his job at Creighton following the 2009 season to accept the head coaching position at Penn State and his replacement Jamie Clark remained in Omaha for only one season before accepting the head coaching role at Washington.
Creighton needed stability at the helm, a proven commodity, and a head coach that would be a good fit for the program. Bolowich, who had an impressive track record as the head coach at North Carolina, was ready for a new challenge. Creighton offered, Bolowich accepted and things have worked out really well. During his first two seasons in Omaha, Bolowich has directed the Bluejays to consecutive Missouri Valley Conference regular season and tournament titles and, oh yes, back-to-back trips to the College Cup in 2011 and 2012. The 2012 season may have been Bolowich's best coaching performance to date.
Winning the MVC and berths in the NCAA Tourney are expected at Creighton but it was the first time in program history that Creighton made consecutive trips to the Final Four. Bolowich on the other hand is no stranger to the College Cup. In fact, he has become a fixture at the College Cup. You have to go back to 2007 to find a Final Four without Bolowich on the sidelines. He was there with North Carolina in 2008, 2009, and 2010 followed by the 2011 and 2012 seasons with Creighton.
Creighton will begin play in the "new" ten member Big East Conference in 2013 after years of being the top dog in the Missouri Valley Conference. The name Big East is a little misleading since the conference is now all over the map as it relates to geography. Existing members Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Providence maintain the east coast flavor while new additions Creighton, Butler, Xavier, and existing members Marquette and DePaul do not. Regardless of the geography, the Big East Conference has a lot going for it with the likes of Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's and Xavier all fielding extremely competitive teams. It will not take long for new rivalries to emerge in the Big East Conference.
With a solid core of players retuning on both sides of the ball, Creighton will certainly be among the frontrunners in the Big East and will once again enter the 2013 season with a high national ranking. Bolowich will have a lot of material to work with but also several significant gaps that must be addressed.
The biggest shoes to fill are those belonging to midfielder Jose Gomez (6g, 9a) and defender Andrew Ribeiro (3g, 1a) who played a big part in Creighton's success last year. Both were consensus All-Americans who brought to the pitch the combination of tangible and intangible attributes that are particularly difficult to replace. Gomez was the 2012 MVC Player of the Year and Ribeiro was the 2012 MVC Defensive Player of the Year.
The Bluejays also lose defenders Brent Kallman (2g, 4a) who was a four year starter and Jake Brown due to graduation. They also will be without the services of goalkeeper Jeff Gal who transferred to the University of Virginia. Gal's athleticism between the pipes was considered by many to be a key factor in Creighton's success down the homestretch last year.
Sophomore midfielder Timo Pitter (10g, 4a), a 2012 All-MVC First Team selection and the MVC Freshman of the Year, figures to be the key weapon in the Creighton offense in 2013. Senior forward Sean Kim (4g, 0a) is among other returning players who has the potential to have an impact on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Carlos McCrary (1g, 0a) who played in fifteen contests last year is among other returning forwards who will seek to play a greater role in 2013.
Creighton will have several standouts, in addition to Pitter, to build around in the midfield. Senior Bruno Castro (2g, 3a) who has been a starter for the past two seasons and senior Zach Barnes who was a starter last year after transferring in from SMU are both impact players. Junior defensive midfielder Eric Miller (1g, 1a), a 2012 All-MVC First Team selection and U.S. U-20 National Team member, is considered to be among the top players in the country. Redshirt sophomore Christian Blandon (4g, 1a) who saw action in twenty-two contests last year is a talented linkman who should challenge for a starting role in 2013. Senior Sonny Makh and sophomore Myles Englis are among other retuning midfielders who look to add depth to the midfield in 2013.
All-MVC Second Team selection Jose Ribas (2g, 8a) returns in the backline along with sophomore Brendan Hines-Ike who was named to the All-MVC Freshman team last year. Sophomore Vincent Keller (2g, 2a) who also had a very productive freshman season is expected to contribute either in the back or in the midfield. Senior Benito Amaral and sophomore Eric DeJulio are among other returning backs who look to be in the mix in 2013.
Junior Alex Bolowich who had nine starts last year with a 1.03 goals against average and four shutouts looks to be in line for the starting goalkeeper job. Sophomore Oshick Shams from South Lake, Texas also returns in goal.
Creighton has added a nine member recruiting class that features midfielder Ricardo Perez who is rated by College Soccer News as the number sixteen player coming out of the high school class of 2013. Perez is a playmaker who should fit nicely into Creighton's system of play. Perez has the potential to develop into a star player and will likely contribute immediately. Midfielders Fabian Herbers and Marvin Iskra from Germany add an international flair to a recruiting class that Bolowitch states will "add a great deal of strength and depth to our team."
The Bluejays will be very competitive in 2013 but it is reasonable to assume that they are going to find the going tougher in the Big East from top to bottom than it was in the MVC. Creighton has historically played well on the road but the fact that they will tangle with Georgetown in Washington and Marquette in Milwaukee in 2013 will be daunting.
Throw a blanket over Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, St. John's and Xavier and no matter who comes out on top it would not really be a huge surprise. Nonetheless, you have to give the edge to Creighton due to Bolowich's impressive track record and what he has accomplished over the past five seasons. Having said that you also have to respect what Brian Wiese has going at Georgetown, the turnaround that Louis Bennett has engineered at Marquette, the years of success of Dr. Dave Masur at St. John's, and last but maybe not least you have to keep an eye on what upstart Andy Fleming has done to put Xavier on the college soccer map.
The 2013 season looks to be both exciting and intriguing in the Big East.
Ben Bakke - Defender - Minneapolis, Minnesota - Minnehaha Academy - Played with the Minnesota Thunder. Member ODP program. All-State as a junior at Minnehaha Academy.
Brock Fitzgerald - Midfield - Lincoln, Nebraska - Pius X High School - Played with the Omaha FC. Memer of the ODP program.
Fabian Hebers - Midfield - Ahaus, Germany - Alexander-Hegius -Gymnasium. Played with the German soccer club VFL Rhede.
Marvin Iskra - Midfield - Zulpich, Germany - St-Angela-Gymnasium - Played for the German club TSC Euskirchen. Played club for SC Fortuna Koln.
Michael Kluver - Goalkeeper - Papillion, Nebraska - Skutt Catholic High School - Played for Omaha FC. 2013 Gatorade Nebraska Soccer Player of the Year.
Ricardo Perez - Midfield - Fort Collins, Colorado - Played for Colorado Rapids. Rated by CSN as the number 16 player in the class of 2013. NSCAA Youth All-American.
Alex Prusa - Midfield - Omaha, Nebraska - Creighton Preparatory - Played with Omaha FC. Led Creighton Prep to state championship game in 2013 for the third straight season.
Connor Sparrow - Goalkeeper - St. Louis, Missouri - John Vianney High School - Sophomore transfer from UMKC where he stated fifteen games as a freshman. Played for St. Louis Gallagher Academy.
Erick Yang - Midfield - Lawrenceville, Georgia - Brookside High School - Played for the Concorde Fire and the Norcross Fury. Placekicker in football as a senior.