Men’s postseason hopes end with 3-0 loss to Creighton


Courtesy of Creighton Athletics

DePaul sophomore midfielder Julian Saldana chases down Creighton senior midfielder Callum Watson in DePaul’s 3-0 loss in Omaha on Saturday.

It would be a tough task, but DePaul’s ambition for Big East tournament play remained alive coming into Saturday’s matchup with Creighton in Omaha, Neb.

The Blue Demons would need a win and three points against the Bluejays to move up the table and give themselves a chance to secure sixth place going into their final game Wednesday. Unfortunately for DePaul, that chance was missed with a 3-0 loss Saturday night.

From first touch, Creighton had the upper hand in possession, controlling play in the middle of the field and in DePaul’s defensive end. Although DePaul defenders played well to keep the Bluejays slow attack at bay in the final third, Creighton’s counterattacks were too much for the Demons to handle, surrendering repeated breakaways over the top.

DePaul yielded the first goal in the 24th minute, when a through ball to Creighton junior forward Duncan McGuire got behind DePaul’s backline. After beating defenders to the ball, an impressive finish by McGuire on a one versus one with DePaul sophomore goalkeeper Ghandi Cruz found the back of the net to put DePaul down 1-0.

Saturday’s must-win scenario demanded a change in DePaul’s style of play, forcing more defenders forward which left the Demons at risk of breakaways.

“We were defending higher, especially when we went down,” said head coach Mark Plotkin. “We pushed more numbers forward to get after them because we knew we needed a win.”

It was a necessary risk, and one that continued to give Creighton the edge.

The Bluejays second goal came on another counterattack that quickly moved Creighton attackers into the final third with DePaul defenders out of position. The route was on when Creighton sophomore midfielder Jackson Castro fired in a close-range driven shot past Cruz at the near post in the 49th minute to put DePaul down 2-0.

Though Saturday’s loss was a knock-out blow to DePaul chances for tournament play, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Plotkin said the scenario put DePaul in a tough spot for how they had to play, and despite the lopsided result, his team left it all on the field.

“We wanted to be more aggressive, and our guys’ energy stepped us higher to apply pressure,” Plotkin said. “I thought we had a few good spells in the first half on the ball… I know our guys gave everything they had; it just didn’t happen today.”

Creighton went up 3-0 in the final moments when a short arching cross from inside the box found the head of graduate midfielder Alejandro Maillet for an easy goal in the 88th minute.

If DePaul had secured a victory, Wednesday’s matchup with Villanova would have likely been a win-or-go-home game, with massive implications for the Big East tournament. Instead, Saturday’s loss took those playoff hopes away. Despite the devastating loss, Plotkin’s message to his team afterwards was one of pride.

“I said I was proud of their effort and [I] know they gave everything they had,” Plotkin said. “That’s all we can ever ask of them. I’m disappointed we won’t make the playoffs, knowing we [were] so close, but it was never for a lack of effort from the group.”

The Blue Demons (4-6-6, 1-4-4) still have a chance to rid themselves of the bad taste left by Saturday’s defeat and finish the season on a high note with Wednesday’s matchup against Villanova.

Wednesday will be senior day at Wish Field, and a significant opportunity to send the team’s departing players off with a victory, as the Wildcats (6-8-2, 2-6-1) come to Chicago as bottom dweller in the Big East table. First touch is set for 1 p.m. CDT.