For collegiate soccer fans and soccer fans in general around the metro, a nationally respected product is not hard to find on the field. In fact, Omaha hosts a preseason top-ten team in Creighton and a Summit League challenger in the University of Nebraska – Omaha Mavericks.
The charge is led by preseason No. 6 CU, entering their first season as a member of the Big East Conference. Creighton returns sophomore Eric Miller, a preseason Second Team All-American defender, according to College Soccer News. The Jays finished the 2012 campaign ranked fourth in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. The Jays competed in the NCAA College Cup and were knocked out of the competition by the eventual national champion Indiana Hoosiers.
2013 regular season play begins for the Jays with an August 30 duel with Tulsa at Morrison Stadium in Omaha. The Jays play a packed schedule, highlighted with matches against Georgetown (Preseason No. 2 nationally, College Soccer News) and Marquette (Preseason No. 8 nationally, college Soccer News). The Jays will also play preseason nationally ranked Saint Louis and Michigan State before the regular season wraps up Friday, Nov. 8 against Providence.
“We are excited to get going, obviously,” CU Head Coach Elmar Bolowich said during the 2013 CU Men’s Soccer Media Day. Regarding the preseason praise, Bolowich was quick to diffuse the situation, stating that while the team has lofty goals, preseason rankings don’t matter if the team doesn’t get the job done on the pitch.
“Whatever you want to rank us, rank us,” Bolowich said. “I could care less. We haven’t played a game yet. We have ten new players to integrate. Every season is pretty much something new. The rankings go by the performance of the previous season but what is taken out of the equation is that you lose a core of your player pool and that has to obviously be replaced.”
Bolowich iterates that while preseason rankings are nice for notoriety and publicity, but this team is not a finished product and has work to do before the season begins on August 30.
“We had a pretty rough spring to say the least,” Bolowich said. “Part of it was because Eric Miller was not with us.”
Miller was granted a leave for the semester to play with the United States U-20 Team during the summer of 2012.
“We were a little bit thin,” Bolowich continued. “We tried out a couple of things but I think overall what I learned from it was the players that are coming back recognize that they had a rough spring season. They came back very prepared and are very fit and there was a reaction to our kind of lackluster performance from spring matches.”
Leadership will play a role on this 2013 and Bolowich states that he believes the team is farther along in that department than in previous seasons.
“Leadership, A., it evolves.” Bolowich said. “And B., we call on everybody to lead themselves. But then there are players that are very comfortable taking the reigns a little bit.”
Bolowich pointed out Miller, Zach Barnes and Alex Bolowich who have the potential and shown commitment to the team over the summer and potentially throughout the season.
Miller returns to CU as one of the countries best players after his time with the U-20 national team. According to Bolowich, Miller will play a key role on this season’s squad.
“Miller is playing with a new sense of confidence right now having been with the best of the best of his age group to represent out country,” Bolowich said. “We want to utilize that obviously and Miller has aspirations to move on and play professionally. He is gearing up toward that. What better way than to be a leader on a top-level college team and make your mark and grow in that sense?
About fifty blocks to the west of Creighton, another collegiate squad is preparing for a follow-up to a 5-10-1 campaign from 2012. The University of Omaha Mavericks were tabbed as a preseason fourth-place finisher in the Summit League behind Denver, Western Illinois and IUPUI.
The Mavs, however, are ineligible to win a conference championship or make an appearance in the NCAA tournament, due to this being their second-year of mandatory division-1 transition. It is just the team’s third year of existence. UNO will be eligible for the NCAA Tournament in 2015.
The Mavs return ten players that played in half of UNO’s matches last season to a team that went 3-3-1 in Summit League Conference play in the 2012 season. UNO returns key contributors Felipe da Silva, Matt Grosey and Chava Garcia.
Silva, a Jr. defender scored two goals in his Summit League debut season, tallied an assist and earned All-Summit League Second Team honors and a spot on the Summit League Newcomer Team in 2012. Senior goalkeeper Matt Grosey held a 1.70 goals allowed average with 65 saves, earning himself a spot on the All-Summit League Second Team. Garcia, a sophomore, earned himself a spot on the 2012 All-Summit League Newcomer Team by scoring four goals and three assists as a forward.
Head Coach Jason Mimms returns for his third season with the Mavericks in 2013. A former Penn State assistant and ten-year assistant with Creighton, Mimms has served as head coach for its three years of existence, leading the squad to a 6-21-2 record (1-11-1, 5-10-1). The Maverick coaching squad is rounded out by Assistant Coach Tim Walters and Goalkeeper Coach Brian Holt.
Another bright spot for the up and coming Mavericks is the debut of their new pitch, set for play beginning this season. The UNO women’s soccer team will play their games on the new field, as well as the field serving as a community soccer facility for students and youth.
UNO opens their season on August 30 against Grand Canyon in Omaha.