I could give you a story about how hard UNO played against Creighton and how proud they should be of themselves, but that’s the same story you told yourself immediately following the game. The truth is, this loss gave Creighton a platform—an undeserved platform.
You know how the game went, and I won’t sugarcoat it. UNO scored in the 11th minute, but it was called off due to an apparent offside on Emmanuel Hamzat. After the game, it was revealed that he wasn’t offside; but hey, that’s sports and sometimes you get the short end of the stick. That’s the human element we love and hate from sports at the same time. Another shot later in the game by Elvir Ibisevic appeared to go off the hand of a Creighton player in the box, but no call was made.
“There were 5,000 people here to watch our guys play. What a game. There is no loser tonight,” said Head Coach Jason Mims.
It was that kind of game. It was physical, as any rivalry game should be. It was as if everyone in the stands was just waiting for Omaha to breakthrough with a goal, but in the 78th minute, Creighton fed a cross into the box that found Ricky Lopez-Espin’s head, who put it past Joseph Ghitis for the goal. Just like that, it felt as if the breath of every fan had been taken away from them. Silence. You could literally hear the Creighton players celebrating it was so silent.
So, instead of giving you the “we should be proud of ourselves” runaround, I’m here to offer a different perspective. If you’re Omaha, you lost. Whether it was justified or not, it goes down as a loss. There’s only one thing you can do: Take it on the chin and bounce back.
The season isn’t over. Omaha’s success didn’t hinge on if they beat Creighton. Its success relies solely on what this team does in conference play and in the NCAA Tournament. If they really want to beat Creighton, beat them in two months when it really matters and it’s win or go home. Mims is also able to put this game into perspective and see the bigger picture.
“Our most important game is Saturday, as much as we wanted to win this game our most important game is conference season,” he said.
As far as playing each other again in the future, I wouldn’t hold my breath Maverick fans. Creighton has much more to lose than to gain in this series. Assuredly, a Maverick win would have made a huge statement, but at the end of the night the scoreboard read: Creighton-1, UNO-0. Still, Mims thinks that having both teams play each other twice a year is essential to growing soccer in Omaha.
“Anybody can see that we should play twice a year. Our sport is too small to not have games like this,” he said.
Creighton gains next to nothing from beating Omaha. That is what they are “expected” to do. What was obvious on Tuesday night, though, was the threat of losing to Omaha. One tweet I saw stated: “Creighton is in a down year and they can still beat Commuter U.” Creighton can call their soccer season a “down year” but the truth is that they have good recruits on the pitch, and their goalie, Michael Kluver, was one of the top goalkeepers in the Midwest in his prep days.
So no, I don’t think it’s a down year for Creighton. I think the level of competition is catching up to them. Omaha is no longer a middle of the road soccer team, and I know that the Bluejays realize this too. They don’t want to be the ones to relinquish that power to Omaha, and can you really blame them?
Great rivalries are hard to find nowadays, and the perception that Creighton would stop that rivalry because of Omaha’s “hard” style of play is embarrassing and shows exactly why sports are much softer than they used to be. The truth is, this love-loss between teams is what sports are all about. It creates players that play for the name on their chests, not their own on their backs. It creates the aura of fighting for bragging rights and eternal pride. There was an obvious intensity that surrounded the game.
Creighton will do whatever they choose, Omaha has no say in if they decide to play UNO. I can guarantee you that they will look bad if they don’t decide to play Omaha, especially since Omaha is so open about saying they are ready to play each year. I can also guarantee you one more thing: UNO has done everything it can, and Mims acknowledges this as well.
“We have done our part; I mean they’re not playing a small UNO team; we’re a top-25 team so it doesn’t hurt them at all. I’d love to always play this game.”
Who knows what will happen first: Creighton acknowledging UNO as “Omaha” instead of “Nebraska- Omaha,” or an inaugural series between the teams.