With his team saddled with its longest losing streak since 2001, Creighton soccer coach Elmar Bolowich has decided to adapt a less-is-more approach.
Bolowich intends to shorten his playing rotation for Wednesday’s game at Butler, which dropped from the national rankings this week. He’s been consistently using 15 to 16 players in each match this season.
“We’ve been playing various guys, but we’ve come to a point where we just have to stick to a lineup and just play them through,” Bolowich said. “The constant rotation at this point is almost counterproductive.
“Nobody on the bench does anything different than what we already have on the field. So, we settle into a lineup and just let them play.”
No. 22 Creighton has lost its last three games — all shutouts — to drop to 6-5-2 overall and 2-2-1 in the Big East. The Bluejays are clinging to sixth place in the standings, a point ahead of Villanova, Xavier and Seton Hall.
Bolowich knows there is still time to pull out of the nosedive that has turned a once rosy season rocky. Creighton started 5-1-2, winning its first Big East match and tying Georgetown in its second.
The Bluejays are 1-4 since playing the Hoyas to a scoreless tie. Their only goals came in a 2-0 home win against Xavier. They’ve dropped four 1-0 decisions — conference matches against Marquette and Villanova and nonconference games against Michigan and Saint Louis.
Creighton has not scored for more than 319 minutes, and getting shut out in three straight matches is a first since the program was restarted in 1990.
“A lot of guys are down on confidence, which makes it tough to play,” junior Eric Miller said. “We just have to keep working every day, keep trying to improve our game and keep grinding away.
“Hopefully, the older guys have been successful in the past. We just have to try to pull the younger guys up. Teams go through things like this all the time. Last year we went through a bad rut and pulled out of it. It’s all about how we respond.”
Last season, the Bluejays had a stretch in which they lost three of four games and tied a fifth. They then went on a 13-match unbeaten streak to get back to the College Cup.
Creighton needs to get itself righted this season to maintain a spot in the Big East’s top six — only six of the 10 league teams will qualify for the conference tournament.
Wednesday’s match figures to be the toughest of the Bluejays’ four remaining league games. The Bulldogs were picked eighth in the preseason poll but opened conference play with three straight wins before dropping back-to-back matches to Marquette and Georgetown.
Butler is 9-4-1 overall and second in the league in scoring (26 goals) and points (75). David Goldsmith is tied for the league lead with nine goals and is second in points with 20.
In comparison, Creighton has scored 17 goals this season and sophomore Timo Pitter leads the team with seven points.
In an attempt to add some punch to the offense, Bolowich shifted Miller from the back row to midfield in a move similar to one he made last season, when he brought Andrew Ribeiro up the field.
“I think we look better with Eric in the midfield with (Zach) Barnes,” Bolowich said. “They have to play themselves in a little bit, but I think that’s something we’ll see more of now.”
Miller said all the Bluejays probably, at some point, have experienced the frustration that goes with a scoring slump similar to what they are going through now.
“The way we respond is the crucial aspect,” he said. “I don’t doubt we’ll respond. We have a lot of guys that are very mentally tough, a lot of guys have a lot of experience. We’ll grind this out and figure things out.”