Bluejays soar over Huskies in playoffs
Published: Monday, December 3, 2012
Updated: Monday, December 3, 2012 00:12
The No. 12 Creighton Blue Jays came into Storrs and knocked off the No. 4 Connecticut Huskies 1-0 in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Creighton’s Christian Blandon scored with 90 seconds remaining in regulation to deny UConn a trip to the Final Four.
After several desperation attempts were made in the last minute, UConn could not score the equalizer. When the last seconds ticked off the clock and Creighton sealed its trip to Hoover, Ala., seniors Carlos Alvarez, Flo Liu, Max Wasserman and junior Mamadou Diouf sat on the field of Morrone Stadium with blank stares. Sunday’s loss was an awful end to an incredible four years for the seniors, especially Alvarez and Wasserman.
“I just wanted to score,” Alvarez said. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get the job done with my teammates.”
“I never thought I’d feel this way,” Wasserman said. “This is the best group of guys I have ever been around. It’s a shame.”
The senior class produced an incredible 59-13-14 record and will leave Storrs as one of the most talented groups ever under Head Coach Ray Reid. After being favorites to win the national title the last two seasons, they never made it to the College Cup.
UConn had several chances immediately after the opening kick. Just over a minute into the game, Alvarez flicked the ball from the right side to the left post for Diouf, who had snuck behind the Creighton defense. Diouf fought off Creighton goalkeeper Jeff Gal for possession but could not get a clean shot off.
A minute later, the duo of Alvarez to Diouf teamed up for an even better chance. Alvarez hit Diouf with a through ball and the entire Creighton team stopped because they thought he was offside. Diouf was not and he had a one-on-one with Gal but his shot was deflected out of bounds for an eventual, unsuccessful corner kick.
Creighton also had a couple of scoring chances in the first 45 minutes. In the 28th minute, Creighton senior Jose Gomez took a free kick from 25 yards out but his shot sailed above cross bar. Gomez along with Alvarez and Diouf are all candidates for MAC-Hermann Trophy given to the top men’s soccer player in the country.
With 8:30 remaining in the first half, Blandon received a through ball and had a clear shot at the net with only UConn goalkeeper Andre Blake to beat. As Blake leaned towards the wide-open net to his left, Blandon chose the opposite route and a shot a ball that appeared to inevitably put the Blue Jays on top. But with all his momentum going the wrong way, Blake made a kick save to keep the score at 0-0.
The Huskies remained aggressive throughout the first half as they were called for six offside penalties. Despite several promising scoring opportunities, UConn and Creighton went into halftime with a scoreless tie.
With 15 minutes remaining in regulation, the intensity inside Morrone Stadium reached its highest level of the season.
Diouf sent in a cross from 30 yards out that was saved by Gal but the Creighton goalkeeper slipped and fell as he made the save. Luckily for him, he fell forward as his legs laid in the goal and he managed to keep the ball inches outside the goal line.
Less than a minute later, Alvarez’s shot was denied thanks to an incredible diving save made by Gal but UConn was awarded a corner kick. Wasserman sent in a useful ball to freshman Nick Zuniga. Zuniga fired a shot that was blocked by a Creighton defender then another amazing save by Gal denied George Fochive his first goal of the season.
With less than two minutes remaining and both coaches preparing for overtime, Gomez capitalized on a broken play in the UConn end. Gomez crossed to Blandon who darted towards the Connecticut net and scored the game-winning goal, sending Creighton to the College Cup for the second consecutive season.