A hat trick isn’t something you see all that often in soccer. A lot of games end without either team tallying three goals, let alone one player. But Wednesday night, the Wisconsin men’s soccer team took on Eastern Illinois, and junior forward Jacob Brindle almost single-handedly defeated the Panthers, earning three of UW’s five goals.
Wisconsin (11-3-2, 2-2 Big Ten) and Eastern Illinois (1-12-2, 1-3-1 Summit League) have not gone up against each other since 2002 when UW came away with the 1-0 win. Now, over a decade later, the two teams parted ways after what was most likely a much more exciting game, especially for Brindle, who had never hoped for such an outcome for himself.
“I mean obviously it’s a great feeling. I can’t say [scoring a hat trick] was one of my goals coming in to college soccer,” Brindle said.
Prior to Wednesday night, the junior forward was in second place on his team for overall number of goals, having found the back of the net five times throughout the season. He got off to an exciting start with his first goal, which came in the third game of the year against DePaul, when he sunk the game winner in overtime. Brindle went on to score against IPFW, Drake, Indiana, and Milwaukee. Coach John Trask commented that Brindle has a knack for getting the ball in past the goalkeeper.
“[Brindle] is a goal scorer, we’ve always known that,” Trask said. “Since the day he’s gotten here he’s been very good, and he’s developed other parts of his game and we’ve developed as a team and we’ve been able to utilize him and find him in those moments.”
On Wednesday there were three of those moments. With UW already in a 1-0 lead, Brindle first slid the ball past EIU’s sophomore Garret Creasor in the 28th minute, adding to teammate Brian Hail’s lone goal. Teammate Paul Yonga beat Eastern Illinois to the ball on the end line before sending it across to Brindle, who kept the ball low as he kicked from the six-yard box.
Brindle was the lone scorer in the second period, netting both of his next two goals after halftime, and proved that the fifteen-minute intermission did nothing to slow his momentum.
Exactly 24 seconds after play resumed, Brindle found an opening again, this time against EIU freshman goalkeeper Austin Miller. Capitalizing on a pass from teammate Nick Jones right in front of the net, Brindle hit the back post, putting some more distance between UW and EIU on the scoreboard. Trask explained that finishing off a low pass is something Brindle has been especially good at this season.
“Jacob will finish [low passes] all day as long as you can get guys that can make those types of plays around him,” Trask said.
Not too long after this, Brindle scored his final goal of the evening, earning himself that rare hat trick. In the 49th minute of play, he once again connected with Yonga, this time beating Miller from the top of the box.
Even though he nearly doubled his goals for the season in one night, Brindle stated he wasn’t playing any differently than he has been all season, and was just continuing to look for passes from his fellow Badgers. In fact, Brindle didn’t even seem to consider himself a key player of the night, choosing instead to talk about his teammates.
“I’ll give all my credit to my teammates,” Brindle said. “I just got up in the box and they were able to find me.”
But his teammates couldn’t agree less.
“Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench he gives us a different dynamic out there,” Yonga said. “We have Toni [Ramadani] and [Nick] Jones that give us some pace, Brindle’s good in the air, and he gives us some size and strength and does well holding the ball up there.”
Wisconsin has two regular season games left, against Northwestern and Ohio State, both of which will be conference games. With these two important match-ups still ahead of them, maybe the Badgers can use some of Brindle’s momentum to help them find success. Yonga gave a quick rundown of Wisconsin’s plan of attack for these next two games, which sounded not-so-surprisingly similar to what was executed Wednesday night.
“[We will] just do what we’ve been doing all season,” Yonga said. “Northwestern is a good team, and then Ohio State has been strong lately, so just preparing and coming out and doing what we’ve done before, just staying strong defensively and then finishing our chances when they come.”