Johnny Torres knows the challenges only get more formidable from this point on for his Creighton men’s soccer team.
But the coach liked the Bluejays’ approach Thursday when they scored twice in the final eight minutes to erase a deficit and edge No. 23 Missouri State 2-1 and advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
“The one thing I know is there’s no quit in them. I can’t commend them enough for continuing to stay patient because it’s very easy to lose your patience, to become erratic, to panic and deviate from what the game plan is,” Torres said. “They stuck to their guns and continued to stay diligent.”
Creighton’s mettle will be tested in the next round. Three days after their win, the Jays will be in Seattle to face Washington, the No. 2 overall seed in the NCAAs. Washington is ranked No. 1 and started the season 15-0-3 before losing 1-0 to Oregon State in its regular-season finale.
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The Huskies were Pac-12 champs and are led by Ilijah Paul, who was the conference’s offensive player of the year for the second straight time. He has 11 goals, while teammate Lucas Meek has 10 goals and eight assists. Defensively, Washington has allowed 13 goals and have shut out nine opponents.
“We know going into it that it’s going to be hostile territory and we know its going to be a challenging match. But we’re up for it,” Torres said.
Torres will see a familiar face on the sideline as Washington coach Jamie Clark was Creighton’s coach in 2010 before leaving the next year for the Huskies. Torres was an assistant for Clark in 2010.
Creighton leads the NCAA in goals with 55 as the trio of Duncan McGuire, Jackson Castro and Owen O’Malley have combined for 35.
But it was Jake Ashford’s first goal of the season and Alejandro Maillet’s third that propelled CU on Thursday.
“The guys on our team, regardless of who it is, they all want to win as much as the next person,” Ashford said. “Everyone’s fighting for the team.”
The second-round match will start at 7 p.m. Sunday.