How a chance meeting on the mall could help shape Creighton men’s soccer’s 2014 season.
Junior midfielder Jose Ribas had not made a decision about where he was going to school.
The native of Guayaquil, Ecuador was still looking at the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina when he enrolled in Creighton’s Intensive English Language Institute for the Spring 2011 semester. Ribas did not know much about Creighton beyond his high school’s recommendation.
“I came to Creighton because I needed to learn English so I could get ready for college,” Ribas said. “So my school, which was a Jesuit high school, told me that Creighton has a program that would be good for me.”
While refining his English, Ribas began to warm up to the idea of possibly attending Creighton as a freshman in the fall of 2011.
“I came here, and then I saw the stadium, and I said ‘Oh yeah, they have a good soccer program too,’” Ribas said. “And then, all of a sudden, I saw Elmar.”
It was not the first time Ribas had met Creighton men’s soccer head coach Elmar Bolowich. The two became acquainted when Ribas visited a camp in Chapel Hill to gain some Division I exposure.
“My senior year, I started exploring my options and getting familiar with the recruiting process,” Ribas said. “I went to the camp in North Carolina so coaches could see me because sending emails and videos is not that helpful for Division I. I loved North Carolina, and Coach Elmar was interested in me. Everything looked like I was going there.”
The winter after that camp, though, Bolowich shocked the college soccer world by leaving the Tar Heels to coach at Creighton. Neither party knew that their paths would cross again.
“My move over here took place in the winter, and I lost sight of him. I did not contact him any further,” Bolowich said. “And in the spring, I ran into him right here on the mall. He was taking the English learning course and I was totally surprised because I did not know he was here. So I asked him, ‘Do you want to come out for the team in the fall?’ and he said ‘Yes.’”
That first season, Ribas played in 17 matches while coming off the bench for what is widely considered one of the best soccer teams in Creighton history. The 2011 squad reached the College Cup semifinals before being upset by UNC-Charlotte in a shootout. While he was not a starter, Ribas made the most of his freshman season.
“The team we had in 2011 was one of the best teams I had ever played for in my life,” Ribas said. “I was glad I was playing, of course, but the players in front of me were really, really good players. As a freshman, you have to adjust a lot to the style of playing, so I took my freshman year as a process.”
Over the next two seasons, Ribas’ versatility ensured that he would remain in the starting lineup.
“In his freshman year, he played flank only,” Bolowich said. “Then in the middle of his sophomore season, we had some injuries in our back line and moved him to left back. He’s been doing very well; he reads the field well and is tough to beat.”
In this new role, Ribas has been Creighton’s most consistent playmaker, leading the team in assists with six last season. That number helped Ribas get named to the All-Big East Second Team.
Even in his junior season, it was clear to many that Ribas conducted himself as a team leader for the Bluejays. At the men’s soccer postseason banquet, he was honored with the Coaches’ Award, voted on by the coaching staff for leadership and most consistent effort on and off the field.
The expectation is that his leadership will carry on into next season.
“First and foremost, what you’re looking at in a senior is that he leads by example, in terms of his work ethic and in terms of how he commits himself to the program, and that’s what Jose does,” Bolowich said. “I think everybody trusts him. He’s one of the hardest working guys on the team, and I think it’s going to look pretty good for him going into his senior year.”
Sophomore midfielder Timo Pitter agrees that Ribas’ leadership will be important next season.
“Jose’s a funny, outgoing guy and I think next fall he will take the leadership position,” Pitter said. “He’s one of the most experienced guys on the field and off the field; he knows what to do. I expect him to lead this team next season.”
Despite any added pressure going into his senior season, Ribas will handle his leadership role no differently than he has in the past.
“I always say, ‘Still be you, don’t worry about trying to be the leader,’” Ribas said. “That will come. If you show effort, then people will follow you.”
Fans can follow Ribas as he leads the Jays through their spring exhibition season. Thus far, Creighton has tied a Minnesota FC United team featuring four former Jays, has lost to Denver and has beaten Kansas City. Ribas scored the team’s only goal in the 2-1 defeat by Denver.
The home portion of the schedule wraps up on Saturday at 7 p.m. against Marquette as part of the Kicks for a Cure event. The Jays will close out the spring on the road at Tulsa on April 26.