Liz Bartels’ homecoming proved much happier Thursday night than the Creighton women’s soccer team’s Big East debut.
A freshman from Omaha Skutt, Bartels scored the winning goal 14 minutes into the second half to give Marquette a 2-1 victory over the Bluejays before 658 at Morrison Stadium on the opening night of conference play.
“I can’t say enough about what she’s done since she’s been at Marquette,” Golden Eagles coach Markus Roeders said. “We know how much success she’s had here at the club level and at Skutt, and for her to come here on this field and take that ball from the wing and put it far post, great for her.”
Bartels took a pass from Vanessa Legault-Cordisco and drove a shot from 10 yards out that beat Creighton goalkeeper Danielle Rice, whose sterling work for most of the night kept the Bluejays in the match.
Marquette outshot Creighton 26-4 and put 11 of its attempts on goals. The Bluejays’ only shot on goal came off a corner kick on which Emily Roll scored to tie the match 89 seconds before halftime.
Bartels untied it with her second goal of her young career.
“I’ve been looking forward to this game for months, coming home and playing in front of everyone,” Bartels said. “I was really anxious.
“I can’t even describe the feeling of scoring that goal in front of all my family and fields, on this field against the team that I grew up watching. It’s awesome.”
Marquette (8-3), the preseason favorite in the Big East, won for the seventh time in its past eight matches. Creighton (7-3), picked ninth in the preseason poll, had its seven-match winning streak snapped.
As the shot differential would attest, the Bluejays spent much of the night playing defense on their side of the field.
“We expected Marquette to be pretty good, and they showed that tonight,” Creighton coach Bruce Erickson said. “They had their way the majority of it, and they’re good enough to score four or five goals on you.
“We had a little bit of a deer-in-the-headlights feel to us. I think we gave them a little too much respect than we needed to and were a little too tentative. We lost a little bit of focus and didn’t come out and compete to the level that we normally do.”
The Bluejays fell behind when Cara Jacobson scored at the 14:30 mark, but managed to tie the match when Roll scored her first career goal by ricocheting her corner kick off the far post.
“When I kick corners, I usually aim for the back post because one of my friends is a keeper and she says that’s where she’s most vulnerable,” Roll said. “When I practice them, a couple have gone in and it’s like, ‘That would be sweet if it happened in a game.’
“That’s never happened until tonight, so it was nice.”
The fact that Roll’s goal came shortly before halftime kept Creighton from building any momentum off of it.
“When you’re playing down, you have a different mindset,” Roll said. “You’re trying to get back up, and when you do even the field a little bit, it’s like, ‘Here we go, let’s get back at ’em.’
“But that close to half, they had a chance to regroup in the locker room and talk about what they had to do better. It cost us some steam.”
The Golden Eagles poured it on in the second half, outshooting the Bluejays 17-2 in the final 45 minutes.
Despite the statistical disparity, Roeders called the match a classic Big East struggle.
“It’s about scratching and clawing for points,” he said. “We’ve been a part of the league, so we might have a little better understanding of what it’s like day in and day out. Close, contested matches are part of the norm, and we’re just glad we won here today.”
Marquette (8-3, 1-0) ............................ 1 1—2
At Creighton (7-3, 0-1) ............................ 1 0—1
Goals: 1, MU, Jacobson (Luba), 14:30. 2, CU, Roll (corner kick), 43:31. 3, MU, Bartels (Legault-Cordisco), 56:59. Shots: MU 26, CU 4. Saves: MU, Engel, 0; CU, Rice, 9. Fouls: MU 8, CU 8.