STORRS - In just the blink of an eye, Connecticut's soccer season was cut short for the second consecutive year in the NCAA quarterfinals as Creighton scored the decisive goal with 1:30 left for a 1-0 victory.
The late goal was a shock to both teams, especially Creighton coach Elmar Bolowich, who had his back turned for most of the play because he was preparing his lineup for overtime. Bolowich turned around just in time to see midfielder Christian Blandon net the game winner, which advances the Bluejays to the NCAA semifinals against Indiana.
"I was thinking maybe this thing will go into overtime and we have had so many overtimes all season long," Bolowich said. "I was mostly turned to (Blandon) and then when I saw the action on the other end that's when I shifted over and I saw Blandon being opportunistic in front of the goal and just put it over the line."
The goal was scored from about six yards out as Blandon one timed a pass from senior co-captain Jose Gomez inside the six-yard box. Creighton's Timo Petter sent in a cross from the left side, through the legs of UConn's Max Wasserman, which ended up in front of the goal and secured by Gomez in a swarm of players.
"Like I said last week, the game is a cruel game. You've got to score more than they do," UConn coach Ray Reid said about the game-winning goal. "You can't rely on (goalkeeper Andre Blake) all the time to pitch a shutout. If we had more time, with the character of this team, we probably get the goal back. With a minute and a half, that's tough. "
The goal stunned the sellout crowd of 5,100 at Morrone stadium. The UConn fans were particularly loud for most of the game, loud enough that when they pounded their feet during chants, it felt like an earthquake in the press box.
After the goal was scored, UConn worked feverishly in the final 1:30 to score the equalizer, but their effort was to no avail.
"I was desperate. It was the last minute, I just wanted to score," said Carlos Alvarez, who led the attack for UConn in the 90 seconds. "I owe a lot to this community. I'm thankful for all the support everyone has given me. I'm sorry I couldn't get the job done with my teammates."
As the announcer counted down the final 10 seconds in the game, a harsh reality set in for UConn. After the final horn blew, many of the seniors fell to the ground, looking downtrodden, defeated and depressed. When asked to describe his feelings after the game, Wasserman struggled to find his words.
"I never thought I'd feel this way, ever in my life," Wasserman said. "There's not much to say. This is the best group of guys I've ever been around. It's a shame."
The momentum of the game shifted drastically between the two halves. UConn came out firing, dominating the first 10-15 minutes of the first half, while the Bluejays found their rhythm in the last 10 minutes of the half. The second half was very similar to the first, until Creighton was able to capitalize with 1:30 remaining. UConn outshot Creighton 13-10 and had four shots on goal, one more than Creighton.
The loss snapped UConn's record of 38 consecutive home victories, which was tied for the third longest streak in NCAA history. This was the second year in a row UConn had lost in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Huskies fell to Charlotte last season in penalty kicks. The last time UConn made it to the College Cup was in 2000 when they won their third national championship in program history.