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Creighton 2018 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  Creighton 
Conference:  Big East
Coach:  Elmar Bolowich – Eighth Season 
2017 Record:  9-7-2 – 3-4-2 in conference play 
2017 Final Season Ending Rank:  N/A 
Key Personnel Losses from the 2017 Team:  Forwards Ricky Lopez-Espin and Marios Lomis, midfielder Noah Franke, defender Lucas Stauffer and goalkeeper Michael Kluver due to graduation. 

Five Year Win Total:

2013:  9

2014:  16

2015:  19

2016:  13

2017:  9

2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  32 scored.  25 allowed
2017 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed Per Game:  1.78 scored.  1.39 allowed
2017 Key Statistic:  2-6-1 when playing away.   

Background:  Creighton is among the premier college soccer programs in the country.  The success and stability of the program is reflected in the fact that the Bluejays have earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament twenty-four out of the past twenty-six seasons. 

Creighton has advaced to the College Cup (Final Four) a total of five times with the most recent being the 2011 and 2012 seasons.  They have played their way into the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament eleven times and the Sweet Sixteen a total of fourteen times. 

Creighton moved from the Missouri Valley to the Big East Conference in 2013.  The Bluejays won the Big East regular season title in 2014 but have yet to win the Big East Tournament title.

The Bluejays are 104-35-14 overall, have appeared in the NCAA Tournament six times, and advanced to the College Cup twice (2011 and 2012) in the seven seasons to date that Elmar Bolowich has been the head coach of the program. 

Forward Ricky Lopez-Espin was named the 2017 Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year.  Lopez-Espin and defender Lucas Stauffer were 2017 All-Big East First Team selections.  Midfielder Noah Franke was an All-Big East Second Team selection and midfielder Kuba Polat was named to the 2017 Big East All-Freshman Team.  

Number Starters Returning in 2018:  Six 


Younes Boudadi – Defender – Ypres, Belgium – Junior transfer from Boston College. Led Boston College with eight assists in 2017.  Played club for Club Bruge.  Member of U-20 Moroccan National Team. 

Daniel Espeleta – Midfielder – San Jose, Costa Rica Mercer Island High School – Played for Uruguay FC in Costa Rica.  Played for Deportivo Saprissa.  Played for Pacific Northwest Soccer Club in Seattle. 

Paul Kruse – Goalkeeper – Heilbronn, Germany – Played for Club TSG 1899 Hoffenheim Academy.  Part of German U-18 National Pool.

Duncan Werling – Goalkeeper – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Transfer from UCLA.  Played for the Minnesota Thunder Academy U-18 and U-16 teams.  

Nick Badalamenti – Defender – Harrison Township, Micigan – L'Anse Area High School – Senior transfer from Princeton.  Played in ten contests with six starts in 2016 at Princeton.  Played for U-18 Vardar Academy. 

Cameron Briggs – Defender – Oconomowoc, Wisconsin – Oconomowoc High School – First Team All-State.  2017 Classic 9 Conference Co-Player of the Year. Played club for Elmbrook United. 

Dominic Briggs – Forward – Oconomowoc, Wisconsin – Oconomowoc High School – First Team All-Conference.  Played club for Elmbrook United.  

Jose "Pepe" Cejudo – Midfielder – Mexico City, Mexico – IES Puzol High School – 2017 All-Ohio Men's Soccer Team selection.  All-Wolverine -Hoosier Athletic Conference selection.  Played club with Levante in Valencia, Spain. 

Alessandro Corghi – Forward – Miami, Florida – John A. Ferguson High School – Played for Kendall Academy.  Two-year team captain. 

Ziyad Fares – Forward – Minneapolis, Minnesota – Washburn High School – Junior transfer from Yavapai College.  Scored eight goals and contributed thirteen assists last year for Yavapai.  Played for Minnesota United U-18.    

Brady Foral – Midfielder – Omaha, Nebraska – Skutt Catholic High School – Lincoln Journal Star Class B All-State First Team.  Team captain.  Played for Nebraska Futbol.

Jake Ronneberg – Defender – Naperville, Illinois – Benet Academy – Played for Chicago Magic PSG Academy Team.  Played for Chicago Fire Academy.

Yudai Tashiro – Midfielder – Tokyo, Japan – Junior transfer from Tyler CC.  Scored five goals and contributed eight assista for Tyler CC last year.  Played with Tromso IL in Norway.  

Outlook for 2018 Season:  Creighton is  accustomed to winning. They will enter the 2018 season with their sights set on increasing their win total and returning to the NCAA Tournament field in 2018 after a 9-7-2 overall record and 3-4-2 mark in Big East play in 2017 that resulted in a rare absence from the NCAA Touranment field. 

In order for improvement to occur the Bluejays must avoid the costly lapses in play that plagued them at times last year.  Whether the lapses were the result of tired legs due to lack of depth, lack of focus, or something else, the Bluejays will need to find a way to consistently put together a full ninty minutes of play to avoid another peaks and valley season.  It only takes a few breakdowns to produce a loss in Big East play where the margin for error is slight. 

Historically Creghton has played well on the road but that was not the case in 2017.  The Bluejays did a great job of protecting their home turf last year going 7-1-1 at Morrison Stadium but they were a soft 2-6-1 when on the road.

The opportunity for improvement also exists on the defensive side of the ball where breakdowns can be catastrophic. Last year Creighton allowed their opponent to put three in the back of the net in five of their six losses. That's a habit that is hazaradous to a win-loss record.      

The Bluejays will enter the 2018 season without the services of players who produced twenty-two of the thirty-two goals they scored last year.  The graduation of forwards Ricky Lopez-Espin (12g, 3a) and Marios Lomis (5g, 1a) and midfielder Noah Franke (3g, 4a) creates a void on the offensive side of the ball. 

Replacing Lopez-Espin, who departs Omaha with thirty career goals, is one of the biggest challenges facing Creighton heading into the 2018 campaign.  The solution may be offense by committe with a more diverse and balanced attack rather than one go-to guy.  It appears that Elmar Bolowich may have the talent base to mix and match his weapons up-top.

Junior Luke Haakenson (3g, 3a) and senior Sven Koenig (2g, 0a) are among returning players who look to be key candidates to play a big role up-top.  Haakenson is a high energy and creative player in the attacking third. Koenig is a playmaker with the speed and ability to create scoring opportiunities by quickly changing the point of attack. Both have the potential to flourish in 2018 and ignite the Bluejay offense.   

Senior forward Anthony Macchione who appeared in seventeen contests last year also looks to be in the mix up-top.  Junior transfer Jose Cejudo is among the newcomers who will be counted upon to add an additional dimension to the attack. 

Senior captain Joel Rydstrand (1g, 8a) is a crafty box to box midfielder who has three years of starting experience under his belt.  Rydstrand is a playmaker with an excellent work rate.  He will be the catalyst on the offensive side of the ball and a key pace setter.  Sophomore Kuba Polat (1g, 4a) who started every contest last year will anchor the midfield.  Look for Polat to build on a very impressive freshman season. 

Redshirt junior Connor Ramlo (2g, 0a) who appeared in twelve contests last year will also seek to play a greater role in the midfield in 2018.  Freshman Daniel Espeleta who joined the team in the spring may be the best prepared member of the recruiting class to challenge for minutes in the midfield right out of the gate. 

The graduation of defender Lucas Stauffer (2g, 6a) who was a four-year starter and two-time All-Big East First Team member and goalkeeper Michael Kluver necessitates some reloading on the defensive side of the ball. 

The good news is that a very solid contingent returns in the back supplemented by several experienced newcomers.  Senior defender and team captain Mitch LaGro (0g, 1a) returns to anchor and set the pace in the back.  LaGro is a fierce competitor with a blue collar work ethic. 

Senior Akeem Ward and junior Julius Fohr (1g, 0a) who were starters last year will join with LaGro to give the Bluejays a solid foundation upon which to build in the back. Ward is an energetic wing back with the ability to push forward to add numbers to the attack.  Fohr also adds an additonal dimension to the offense out of set pieces. 

The Bluejays also have high hopes for junior transfer wing back Younes Boudadi and junior transfer Yudai Tashiro who has the versitality to play multiple positions.  Boudadi and Tashiro are solid additions who are proven performers.  Chances are pretty good that they will make an immediate impact.  

Junior Collin Valdivia who appeared in four contests last year and freshman Paul Kruse who joined the team during the spring season are among those battling for the starting goalkeepr role.  A solid presence in goal is essential for stability on the defensive side of the ball and looks to be the key unanswered question on the defensive side of the ball heading into the 2018 season.   

In order to improve their win total in 2018 the Bluejays must achieve a level of consistency that they didn't have last year.  The good news is that Creighton will not have a shortage of talent in 2018 and there is no doubt that Bolowich and his staff know exactly what must occur to get back on track. 

It is also a plus that the schedule tilts a little in Creighton's favor in 2018 with contests against Big East foes Butler, Providence, Marquette, Georgetown and Seton Hall taking place in Morrison Stadium.  The Bluejays also have a chance to secure an early season signature win and momemtum builder when they host non-conference foe Clemson. 

There are specific areas that must be addressed but chances are pretty good that Bolowich and his staff will find a fix.  The new additions reflect a positive step forward in that regard. The bottom line is that it should not take a lot for Creighton to leapfog upward in 2018.       


Posted in 2018 Team Reviews

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