William and Mary had a successful weekend trip to Omaha for the Creighton Invitational, crushing Drake University by a 4-1 count Friday before falling to No. 2 Creighton in a 2-1 nail-biter on Sunday.
“I’m pleased with our performance. I thought we played well in both games,” head coach Chris Norris said.
The Tribe (2-3-1) battled through 43 scoreless minutes to start the game against Drake, aggressively firing 13 shots to keep the Bulldog defense reeling. The Tribe finally scored when senior midfielder Ben Anderson sliced a penalty kick into the net just before halftime.
The Tribe’s defense starred in the first half, limiting the Bulldogs to just seven first half shots, with none coming on goal. The stifling defense propelled the Tribe into halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The Tribe shined in the second half and struck again in the 50th minute when sophomore midfielder Marcus Luster scored off junior midfielder Chris Perez’ corner kick. The goal was Luster’s second of the season and set the tone for the Tribe’s dominant half.
The Tribe also got help from two freshmen to break the game open. Midfielder Ryan Flesch corralled a pass from forward Jackson Eskay and scored from 15 yards out to give the Tribe a 3-0 lead in the 59th minute. The freshman’s strike all but assured victory for the College.
“We consistently created a lot of chances. … It happened to be a day when we converted on most of them,” Norris observed.
Two more goals followed — one by Perez and one by Drake’s Garrett Crail — providing the final score of 4-1. Crail’s score was the sole blemish on a defense that limited Drake to just four shots in the second half. The Tribe was so dominant that Jones did not even have to make a save.
The Tribe had little time to celebrate, however, as they immediately turned their focus to their Sunday showdown with the tournament hosts — and national powerhouse — the Creighton Bluejays.
Norris was particularly pleased with his squad’s mental approach against Creighton, noting that the team rose to the occasion and gave a strong performance in enemy territory.
“We showed no fear … in an intimidating environment,” Norris said.
The Tribe showed their resilience early in the contest, grabbing a surprising 1-0 lead on sophomore forward Patrick O’Brien’s goal in the 23rd minute. Perez, who added to his strong weekend with a six shot performance against the Blue Jays, assisted the goal.
The Tribe held a 1-0 lead for the remainder of the half, helped by a strong performance from the reliably steady back line. The defense deflected away nine of Creighton’s 18 shots in the game and allowed only four shots on goal.
The Tribe’s lead was not to last, however, as Creighton scored the equalizer with a 55th minute strike from Timo Pitter. The goal came off a deflection — a moment that served as a turning point in the match.
“It was really just a lucky deflection. … Had that not happened, it really didn’t seem like they were creating a lot of chances against us,” Norris said.
After 19 tense minutes that featured three saves by Creighton freshman Jeff Gal, the Bluejays struck again when Eric DeJulio headed in a corner kick to give his team a 2-1 lead and ensure that the Tribe would be sent home with one defeat on the weekend.
Despite the disappointing loss, Norris was positive about his team’s performance over the weekend, including its effort against the nation’s No. 2 team.
“We showed some growth over this weekend and have continued to get better from performance to performance,” Norris said. “We’ve played a tough schedule and that’s prepared us well.”
The Tribe will hope to bounce back in their first home game in nearly three weeks this Wednesday when the College hosts Elon.