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NCAA: Stingy defense key to Creighton's success

On the back of a potentially record-setting defense, Creighton is ready to make a run at a first-ever national championship.

Through 23 games this season, the Bluejays have only conceded five goals, an impressive average of just 0.22 goals against per game.

“It’s a concerted effort where our defense starts with our forwards,” head coach Elmar Bolowich told MLSsoccer.com. “Everybody makes an effort to win the ball back. We are playing a pretty high line, which means we are not dropping back in front of our goal like a lot of other college teams do.”

One of the big reasons for the success this season has been the system employed by Bolowich. After his arrival in February from North Carolina, the former Tar Heels coach tweaked the Bluejays defense tactically, using a higher defensive line and getting an experienced group to buy into a new system of pushing forward.

That, combined with the experienced players already at Bolowich’s disposal – senior goalkeeper Brian Holt and defenders Andrew Duran and Tyler Polak lead the way – has made the system work like a charm, as his side remains cool and composed at the back.

“Our defending, we don’t panic, we don’t cause silly fouls for the most part,” Bolowich said. “The guys stay poised, they have good composure in and around the box defensively. We are trying to play a clean defense. In our case it’s paid off.”

Added Holt: “We push a lot forward and right after we lose the ball we work hard to win it back, and make sure that we’re communicating and working together to allow us to be in a good position that when we do turn the ball over, we’re able to do the best we can to get it right back.”

Creighton kicks off Friday's College Cup semifinals in Hoover, Ala., against UNC Charlotte (6 pm ET, ESPNU, ESPN3.com). With the 49ers the obstacle standing between the Bluejays and a trip to the championship game, it’s all business at the moment for Bolowich – and not much thought spared for the possibility of meeting his old team, North Carolina, for the title.

“I don’t think about it much because it’s not in my control,” he said. “First of all, I don’t know if we’ll win our game, and I don’t know if UNC wins against UCLA. In the end it’s going to be a championship match it doesn’t matter who you face.”

Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com.