In the their home contest Tuesday night against the Drake Bulldogs, the Badgers came out victorious in a 3-2 battle-to-the-finish.
Senior defenseman Paul Yonga and junior midfielder Jacob Brindle added two goals for the Badgers, but a handball in the penalty area allowed senior midfielder Nick Janus to take and score a penalty kick, knocking in one final score for the Badgers.
Wisconsin was able to contain a streaking opponent in Drake. The Bulldogs entered the game coming off six straight wins and matched the Badgers’ determination to make it a hard-fought battle. The physicality throughout the game echoed this intensity, with the Badgers racking up 14 fouls and the Bulldogs 16.
“We gave away a couple stupid fouls and weren’t disciplined enough in the end, so that kind of hurt us. But I think we came out and matched their physicality and that helped us get through this victory,” Yonga said.
Early in the first half, Brindle and Janus formed a dynamic duo that eventually put the Badgers on the board. After 12 minutes of physical defense, Brindle was able to knock in a goal with an assist from Janus.
“I give my credit all to my teammate, Nick Janus. He jumped the pass in the back and I was able to make a run and he was able to find me when I was open,” Brindle said.
Head coach John Trask said Brindle is an essential part of the team and his ability to finish when it counts is what makes him so dangerous. After not scoring a goal in the last few games, Brindle was back on track to his scoring ways against Drake.
“Jacob, he knows how important he is to this club, and it was very nice for him to get a goal because he hasn’t scored in a while,” Trask said. “When you’re a goal-scorer you want to taste the back of the net.”
At the end of the first half, the Badgers held the Bulldogs to just two shot attempts, leaving them scoreless entering halftime. Upon return, the Badgers found themselves in better physical shape than their opponents, helping them build pressure on Drake in the second half.
“That’s one of our goals, to be physically dominant over any team,” Brindle said. “We try to come out physically demanding, practices and everything, and we try to set the tone early.”
After a foul at the 61-minute mark, Yonga lined up for what most assumed to be a standard free kick — lobbing the ball into the danger area for one of the Badger forwards to try to head on goal. Instead, it zipped over the heads of both Badgers and Bulldogs and caught the top left corner of the Bulldogs’ goal.
“This past week, Prince and I had been practicing that,” Yonga said. “We just tried it and it worked out. So practice paid off, I guess. It was a good goal.”
As for Trask, well, he thought much more.
“Paul Yonga is a world class striker. There’s not a goalkeeper in the world that stops that shot. So compliments to Paul – fantastic,” Trask said.
Down two with just ten minutes left to play, the Bulldogs kicked it into high gear. Sophomore defender Alec Bartlett scored off a rebound for the Bulldogs, stealing the shutout from the Badgers.
Three minutes later, the Badgers responded. They found themselves in close scoring position, catching the Bulldogs off guard. After a Bulldogs’ handball in the box, Janus lined up to shoot the penalty kick for the Badgers. In a nonchalant fashion, Janus knocked one back to the upper left corner of the net, putting the Badgers up by two.
With the game on the line, Drake junior midfielder Jarred Arde slotted in a shot from 20 yards out, giving the Bulldogs six minutes to tie it up. The next few minutes were utter chaos as Wisconsin defenders threw their bodies toward the ball at any hint of a shot from Drake in an attempt to keep the Bulldogs from scoring the tying goal. In turn, the Badgers were able to close the deal with a nail-biting last 60 seconds.
“Towards the end we made it a little difficult on ourselves, but I mean for the most part I think we did well. We came out strong, got an early goal, which helped us a lot,” Yonga said. “We need to be better defensively so we’re not putting ourselves in difficult situations like that, but for the most part we played pretty well.”