Sept. 26, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Austin McAnenaregistered the first Ohio State hat trick in seven years as the men’s soccer team downed Butler 4-1 Wednesday night at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The win snapped a two-game skid for the Buckeyes and improved their record to 4-5-1 on the season, while the Bulldogs dropped to 2-2-4 with their first loss in four games.

“It was a good team performance tonight,” John Bluem, Ohio State head coach, said of the win. “A lot of guys got to play and scoring that many goals should be good for our confidence … I think this group now recognizes what we’re capable of doing. This was a pretty good Butler team coming into the game. They had some good results and tied a couple nationally-ranked teams. It wasn’t like this was a slouch opponent tonight, they had only been beaten once this year.”

McAnena’s three-goal outburst was the first for an Ohio State player since Sept. 9, 2005, when Xavier Balc produced each score in a 3-1 win over Coastal Carolina. The team’s total output was a season high and the most goals scored since a 4-2 victory over Stetson Sept. 4, 2011. Sage Gardneradded the final score of the night, the first of his career, on a late-game penalty kick.

“I’m very happy for Austin,” Bluem said. “He’s been a little bit frustrated this year, but I think he had a very good performance tonight. We moved him out to the left side of the midfield, just trying to find ways to move the guys around a little bit to get more effective. I thought we did a good job of attacking against Butler and Austin provided a nice spark off of that.”

After already making three stops in the opening portion of the half, goalkeeper Alex Ivanov started off the play that opened the scoring barrage. The sophomore goalkeeper launched a goal kick downfield, which was one-touched by Kenny Cunninghamwith a header up to McAnena for the senior captain to stuff in the back of the late in the 32nd minute of action. The goal was the first of the year for the senior captain, who would go on to match his season output from a year ago with the Wednesday night hat trick.

“My first goal of the season was the first goal,” McAnena said. “Obviously that was just huge for my confidence and hopefully the team’s attacking confidence in general. I think we played a little better and the slick surface allowed us to move the ball a little bit. Overall, I thought we played well defensively too and that helped us offensively. We got the ball more and were able to attack.”

Coming out of the half with the lead for just the second time this season, the Buckeyes wasted little time in getting on the board again. In the 48th minute, McAnena took the ball across the penalty area himself and finished off a shot towards the right side of the net for the 2-0 lead.

Butler cut margin in half just over 10 minutes later when a penalty kick was called in the box and the Bulldogs placed Caleb Postlewait on the line. The freshman buried the shot and the score became 2-1 in the 59th minute, where it remained until the 70:25 mark when McAnena went back to work.

His third and final score came off a neat little tuck into the lower left 90 following a cross by freshman Zach Masonvia sophomore Yianni Sarris’ pass from the endline.

“I was hoping I would get some more chances after the first two goals,” McAnena said of earning the hat trick. “At the same time, I was really just hoping more for the win because I think it’s big for our confidence moving forward. It’s the first time we’ve scored four goals in awhile – that’s really big for us.”

Gardner sealed the deal with that fourth goal in the 84th minute when the officials awarded a penalty kick in favor of the Buckeyes this time. The junior captain drilled his shot past goalkeeper Jon Dawson for his first career tally and the Buckeyes’ most commanding victory in over a year.

The Buckeyes finished on top in shots 11-10, though trailed 8-3 in corner kicks, not making an attempt until midway through the second half. Ivanov finished his fifth start of the year with six saves and his second win on the season.

Ohio State returns to conference play against Michigan at 6 p.m. Sunday in Ann Arbor, Mich., in a nationally-televised match live on BTN. Losers in three-consecutive games, the Wolverines are 2-5-0 on the season. The Buckeyes have captured each of the last three meetings against Michigan, including a 3-2 overtime win in Columbus last season.