Reinaldo Brenes, Andrew Ribeiro, Akron Zips, Creighton Bluejays

Timbers U-23s players Ribeiro, Miller lead Creighton into College Cup

PORTLAND, Ore. – It has been another accomplished season for the Creighton University men’s soccer team. Yet another double-digit win season, a second straight Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) regular-season title and MVC tournament championship. But for Timbers U-23s and current Bluejays Andrew Ribeiro and Eric Miller, there is unfinished business left for this season, namely, a national championship.

Ribeiro and Miller lead Creighton into a second straight NCAA Men’s College Cup this weekend, where they will compete in the final four at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. The Bluejays square off against Indiana on Friday in the semifinal at 4:30 pm PT on ESPNU.

The other semifinal pits Maryland and Georgetown. The national championship match will take place Sunday at 11am PT on ESPNU.

The College Cup stage isn’t unfamiliar territory for Ribeiro, Miller or Creighton. The team reached the semifinals of the NCAA tournament as part of a historic season in 2011, but fell to Charlotte in a shootout. Both Timbers U-23s players played key roles in the Bluejays’ tourney run last year.

With just nine returning players, Creighton fielded almost an entire new team in 2012. But Ribeiro, a senior, and Miller, a sophomore, helped lead Creighton to another strong season in 2012 despite the new faces. The team finished the regular season with a 13-3-2 record and ranked No. 8 in the NSCAA poll.

“As a senior, it is hard to allow your final year to underachieve solely due to the fact that it's a rebuilding year,” said Ribeiro, the 2012 MVC Defensive Player of the Year. “For myself and my fellow seniors, there is no such thing as a rebuilding year. We had to prove ourselves and we've done just that.”

The Bluejays, the No. 12 seed in the tournament, roll into Friday’s match against No. 16 seed Indiana on a 14-game unbeaten streak. In the tournament, Creighton has knocked off Washington, perennial power Akron and the No. 4-seeded UConn in the tournament to reach the College Cup, earning two of those victories on the road.

“I think the main key to our success has been an increase in our team chemistry,” said Miller, a member of the U.S. U-20 National Team. “After playing more and more together we've really improved our team chemistry, on and off the field, and it's really showing in the results we have been getting. The sum of our team is definitely greater than our individual parts and that's why I think we've been able to make this run.”

With only top teams left in the competition, three of the four semifinalists made deep runs in the 2011 NCAA tournament, it may come down to intangibles and fate to determine the 2012 champion.

“I believe whether teams have been to the College Cup or not isn't the most important aspect to look at,” said Ribeiro. “The champion at the end of the weekend will have earned it by working the hardest in both games. Everything must be sacrificed for these next two games, and the team that does that will be the national champs.”