(MSU Billings release)
NAMPA, Idaho – The third career hat trick for Ricardo Palomino highlighted a four-goal second half for the Montana State University Billings men’s soccer team on Thursday, as the Yellowjackets erased a 2-0 halftime deficit and beat Great Northwest Athletic Conference foe Northwest Nazarene 4-2 at the NNU Soccer Field.
Palomino’s ninth-career multi-goal performance and eighth-career game-winning goal lifted his team from a hefty hole at the break, as the Yellowjackets paid the Nighthawks back for a 4-2 loss suffered in Billings on September 29. The loss was the third straight for NNU, which hasn’t won since its victory against MSUB.
Pascal Pisarek scored his first career goal before Palomino’s barrage of finishes, and the Yellowjackets benefitted from four different players with an assist in the well-balanced offensive attack. MSUB improved its record to 6-7-2 overall, and is now 3-4-1 in conference play with the win.
The performance evoked memory of Palomino’s last hat trick, which also came in a match that the team trailed 2-0 at halftime. The opponent was Concordia University on October 17, 2015, when Palomino put together a heroic three-goal performance over the final 45 minutes to carry his team to a 3-2 win.
“At halftime this program was about to tank the season, and belief seemed far away,” Balog said. “A big tactical adjustment thanks to Coach Chameraud, and a fiery halftime speech by Adam Hepburn helped turn things around. Add to that a Ricardo who unleashed today and you have a few good ingredients for a great comeback.”
Thursday marked the fourth hat trick in the GNAC this season, as Palomino joined Alden Massey and Titus Grant of Seattle Pacific, and Matteo Polisi of Simon Fraser to achieve the feat this fall.
Jake Levine delivered the first goal of the match 29 minutes in, as he fired a right-footed shot from the top of the box just past the reach of MSUB goalkeeper Ludvig Rhodin and inside the far post. His fourth goal of the year came on an assist by Rafael Junqueira, as he made it two straight games with a finish against the ‘Jackets.
A giveaway in the defensive third led to NNU’s second goal, as an errant pass wound up on the foot of Junqueira just three minutes before the half. He rolled a through ball into the box for Grant Larson, who finished a well-placed shot off the far post from the left side of the box.
The ‘Jackets came out of the halftime break with some bounce in their step, winning a pair of corner kicks in the opening 10 minutes. The offensive push materialized into MSUB’s first goal of the game, when Pisarek put away a cross from Christian Thode in the 51st minute.
Less than four minutes later, Dana Kowachek set up the equalizer by patiently holding the ball at the top of the box with a defender on him. Waiting for Palomino’s run, Kowachek turned and made a perfect pass for his fellow senior to strike in stride and find the net.
Palomino nearly netted a second goal directly after the first, but his tricky look with the outside of his right foot carried wide of the near post.
One of MSUB’s best chances to take the lead came with 15 minutes left in regulation, when an attempt by Pisarek on a through ball from Luca Battistotti was blocked by a sliding Nighthawk defender. Palomino shortly followed with the game-winning goal however, cutting past a defender and calmly finishing a left-footed strike inside the far post. The finish came on a long ball by Rhodin that carried all the way from his goal box to the striker up top.
Adding a final goal to leave no doubt, Palomino took advantage of a heads-up pass by freshman Brady Tesch that played him in behind the defense. From there, he beat NNU goalkeeper Alex Nadermann with an easy finish from within the box.
Rhodin finished with four saves in the game, and the assist was his first as a Yellowjacket. “Our work rate in the second half went through the roof, and the fact that our first goal came quickly gave the team even more motivation to fight on,” Balog said. “Now we need to get our bodies healthy again for the next big game against SPU Saturday.”
THE BUZZ: Palomino was picked as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…MSUB is now 12-15-2 all-time against NNU and is 7-8 in road games…Palomino’s last multi-goal effort came on September 7, when he scored twice in a 6-0 blanking of Colorado Christian at home…the assist was the third of the year for Kowachek, who continues to lead the team with 15 points.
COMING UP: MSUB faces Seattle Pacific University in more GNAC action on Saturday evening. Kickoff under the lights is set for 7 p.m. Pacific/8 p.m. Mountain time.