This week Tanner Thompson laces up his boots for the final time at Jerry Yeagley Field in the regular season, and the senior midfielder made sure to start the end of his final chapter off right.
Although the Hoosiers have struggled to score this season, Thompson gave IU a quick 1-0 advantage in the 20th minute. About 20 minutes later he had his first career hat trick, and the Hoosiers strolled into the locker room with a comfortable four-goal lead.
IU would notch another goal in the second half to pad its lead and defeat the St. Louis Billikens, 5-0.
“It felt good. Whenever we come here and play at home, there’s always a special feeling,” Thompson said. “Tonight there was a little extra special feeling. We’re coming down to the wire here with not many games left, so I just wanted to make the most of it.”
Thompson’s three-goal effort was the 52nd hat trick in IU history and the first since Nikita Kotlov did it back on Sept. 18, 2012.
All three of Thompson’s goals were of a different variety. The first was the result of a St. Louis mistake. Senior defender Grant Lillard sent the ball forward off the head of a St. Louis defender, and Thompson was able to beat a charging Billiken goalkeeper to flick the ball over his head.
Thompson was aided by his St. Louis-native teammates, sophomore midfielder Austin Panchot and freshman defender AJ Palazzolo.
Panchot netted the second goal of the contest from the top of the 18-yard yard box after a passing sequence from defenders senior Billy McConnell and sophomore Timmy Mehl.
Two minutes after Panchot’s goal, Palazzolo used his speed to get past the defense and run down an IU free kick at the St. Louis end line.
With his back turned to the remainder of the offense he was able to slot the ball into the middle of the box to Thompson, and the senior snuck the ball past the outstretched keeper.
“Austin, I thought, was fantastic. We knew mobility was going to be key in that game to find little seems around their center backs, and he did just that,” IU Coach Todd Yeagley said. “We said before the game, ‘AJ, be ready.’ We knew size was important this game. They’re one of the biggest teams we’ve played and obviously knew AJ would be very motivated in this game being against his hometown.”
In Thompson’s final goal of the night, the senior picked up the ball from 35 yards out, shook a St. Louis defender, charged toward the right side of the box and rocketed a shot past the keeper to claim his first career hat trick.
Sophomore defender Andrew Gutman added the fifth goal of the game in the second half by heading in a long free kick from the far sideline off the foot of sophomore midfielder Trevor Swartz.
The five-goal output was the highest scoring total by the Hoosiers all season.
With 18 combined national titles between these two programs dating to the 1950s, Yeagley said this game has a certain meaning for his team because of the rivalry through the years.
“We have our biggest alumni base in St. Louis, so I know our alumni are very proud tonight as the players in the locker room,” Yeagley said. “Very good performance against a really good team, and this will go a long way for us in postseason play.”
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