"The Road to Omaha" is used to reference getting to the NCAA D1 College World Series for baseball. "The Road through Omaha" is my shorthand for Seattle U's victory over Creighton University in the first round of the NCAA D1 men's soccer post-season tournament.
On November 21st, SU played Creighton in Omaha and snatched a 2-1 victory over the favored Bluejays. I went to the game because I spent 19 years at Creighton before coming to SU in 2001. I went to many Creighton soccer games at what was then Tranquility Field, which was about 10 miles west of campus at a windblown location. Most of the time it was with my kids, who were able to run all over the place and pay little attention to the games.
Today, Creighton has a soccer stadium on campus, and it is no doubt one of the finest facilities in the nation, even finer than our own Championship Field. But there was nothing the stadium could do about the weather on November 21st. The 7:00 PM game was played in 20 degrees, 20 mile an hour winds out of the north, and snow on a turf field.
That's weather that we never see in Western Washington, so a decided advantage for the Bluejays. Nevertheless, our team was able to overcome the elements and pull off a surprise. Creighton started the scoring with a fluke goal, but SU was able to respond and the score was tied at the half. Weather conditions were continuing to deteriorate and we were starting the second half with the wind at our backs, which was becoming more and more of an advantage. With about 25 minutes to go, SU scored a second goal to go up 2-1. Both SU goals were solid finishes by Miguel Gonzalez, despite the elements.
Creighton tried to rally back, and had a few opportunities, but could not get it into the net. The clock wound down and SU had its first D1 post-season soccer victory, and apparently the first victory in post-season D1 play since 1965 in any sport!
Having lived in Nebraska for 19 years, I was fairly well prepared for the weather. Still, by the end of the game my hands and feet were feeling it. No excuse for the hands, though. Prior to the game, Coach Fewing gave me some hand warmers, but during the game I forgot that I had them, so never put them to use. Sorry, coach!
Naturally, part of the reason for the trip was to see people at Creighton that I worked with for 19 years. With the stadium on campus, that was fairly easy to do. But no one seemed to be taking the Redhawks seriously, despite my warnings that I would not have travelled all that way for anything less than a victory. I was able to see the new digs of what is now the Heider College of Business in the Harper Center. Very impressive and a big improvement over the Eppley Building!
Beating Creighton earned SU the privilege of playing UW here in Seattle. It seems a bit ironic that after all the drama in Omaha, we earn the right to play our reinstated cross-town rival.
I went to the UW game on November 24th, and the weather could not have been better for Seattle at this time a year, yet alone in comparison to Omaha several days before. UW prevailed with a 4-2 victory, but I could not help thinking that the last time I had been to the UW stadium was to watch Creighton play UW! I was also pleasantly surprised at the amount of Red in the stands!
In one way, I appreciated the nice weather, but on the other hand, as UW's Michael Harris continued to plague SU with his flip throw-ins, I could not help but wonder. There is no way he could have done that in Omaha. The snow covered turf would have been too slick and he would have been neutralized! Maybe that Omaha weather was not so bad after all!
2013 was a great year for men's and women's soccer at SU! With two terrific coaches in Julie Woodward and Pete Fewing, I am looking for more of the same in 2014!