At one point in the night, Wisconsin seemed in danger of losing its home unbeaten streak to the lowly 1-11-2 Eastern Illinois men’s soccer team, but with the help of Jacob Brindle, the worry was quickly swept away as the Badgers won 5-1.
The Badger’s electric offense struck first in the 28th minute of the game. Senior forward Chris Prince passed the ball from the side of the field into freshman forward Nick Jones who found fellow freshman midfielder Brian Hail at the top of the box. Hail was able to put the ball up and over Eastern Illinois goalkeeper Garrett Creasor for his first goal as a Badger.
Wisconsin continued the onslaught scoring just a minute later. This time senior midfielder Paul Yonga tore down the side of the field, beating two defenders before threading the ball into junior midfielder Jacob Brindle at the back post. The goal would be the first of Brindle’s for the night but certainly not his last. Brindle finished the game with a hat trick, netting three goals against the Panthers.
“Brindle’s first one, I got the ball on the end line and took it toward the net,” Yonga said. “I beat the guy to the end line and Brindle got across his guy. I just placed it in their and he finished the ball well.”
However, Eastern Illinois seemed determined not to go down without a fight. The Panthers were able to break through the Badger’s back four, leaving Eric McCausland alone streaking toward the goal. Wisconsin senior goalkeeper Max Jentsch hesitated at his line for just a second, giving McCausland enough time to net the ball in the left side and cutting the Badgers’ lead to one.
The slight hesitation has been one of Jentsch’s few mistakes since taking over the starting job against UWM last week. The senior goalkeeper has given up only two goals in his three starts this season after being beaten out of the job by redshirt freshman goalkeeper Casey Beyers.
“It’s good to be playing again as a starter,” Jentsch said. “It’s always a competition between Casey, Jameson and I.”
The goalkeeper battle began at the end of last year when Chase Rau left the program to go to Western Michigan last spring. The vacancy attracted a lot of attention at the beginning of the year as head coach John Trask decided on who would be starting in goal.
Trask’s decision was a bit of a surprise as Beyers took the reins for the Badgers. However after giving up nearly 1.5 goals per game, Trask decided to make the transition to a more experienced Jentsch.
“Max is just harder to score on in practice, plain and simple,” Trask said. “We made the switch and he has been playing lights out back there, including a shutout against one of the nation’s top teams [Michigan State].”
The Badgers answered the Panthers goal just a minute later crushing their hopes of a comeback. Redshirt senior midfielder Tomislav Zadro found freshman forward Nick Jones on the back post, notching his second assist of the game, bringing the halftime lead to 3-1.
As the second half kicked off, so did the Brindle show. Just seconds into the second half, Prince played a long ball across the field that found Jones’ head. Jones redirected the ball to Brindle who placed the ball into the net.
In the 50th minute, Brindle scored his third and final from the top of the box, finishing off his hat trick.
“Obviously it is a great feeling,” Brindle said. “I can’t say that was one of my goals coming into college soccer but I give all the credit to me teammates. I just got into the box and they found me.”
The win comes just before Wisconsin’s last two games of the season. After scoring only four goals in as many games, the Badgers offense seemed to pick up a spark on Wednesday against the Panthers. With each game gone by it is becoming increasingly likely that Wisconsin will find themselves in the NCAA tournament.
With how the defense has been playing under Jentsch and how the offensive performed on Wednesday, the Badgers are warming up just in time for the College Cup.