When the Creighton women’s soccer team headed north for a pair of exhibitions, the final scores were the least of coach Bruce Erickson’s concerns.
He was just glad to have a couple of contests to help the team’s cohesiveness.
“We could have five exhibitions and it wouldn’t be enough. We just need games,” said Erickson, who graduated nine seniors from last year’s 9-6-3 team. “We’ll have to jell pretty fast on the field to deal with the schedule we’ve got.”
Eleven of the 22 players on Creighton’s roster are new to the program, including 10 freshmen.
After tying a pair of exhibition games at North Dakota State and Minnesota State-Mankato, Creighton plays its regular-season opener at 1 p.m. Sunday against Iowa State.
Iowa State will play twice in Omaha this weekend as it also faces UNO on Friday. Iowa State returns its top four scorers from a team that went 9-9-1.
“They’re a big, strong team and we’re not very big, so we need to win some of the balls in the air,” senior Brittney Neumann said. “Overall, we just need to be faster and stronger than them.”
Neumann, a Millard North graduate who was the 2010 MVC player of the year, scored a team-best eight goals last season. She’s one of the team’s captains along with junior Kelsey O’Donnell, who sat out last season after transferring from Sacramento State, and sophomore Madelyn Buckner.
Also returning up front is Lauren Cingoranelli, who had a team-leading six assists a year ago.
Erickson said his offense is a little ahead of the defense.
“We’re a little deeper there, but I think defense will eventually be the backbone of the team,” said Erickson, who has won 141 games in his first 13 seasons with the Bluejays.
Senior goalkeeper Katie Jo Swanson started five games a year ago and will start in goal this season. With inexperience on the back line, Erickson knows how important Swanson is.
“She’s a good goalkeeper. She brings that every day,” Erickson said. “But we need her to be more of a leader and direct things in the back.”
Neumann and Erickson said the Bluejays should be driven by a disappointing end to last season, when they lost in the first round of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament for the first time since 2008.
Creighton is picked to finish third in the MVC preseason poll, which Erickson said is fair.
“We probably lost more than anyone else did, but I think we also brought in more than anyone else,” Erickson said. “It’s just a question of how quickly we jell together.”
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