By CANDACE MARTINO
With a team so deeply encrusted with tradition that dates back nearly 40 years, finding dust collected on the record books rarely occurs for the men’s soccer program. The continuous recruitment of striking talent and a number of national championships inevitably calls for history to rewrite itself more often than not. For junior forward Bay Downing, it was his moment to etch his name on a page in the record books this season that will forever be marked.
Earlier this month Downing set a new single-game scoring record during the Spartans 6-1 win over Auburn University in Montgomery. His performance was good enough to surpass head coach Adrian Bush, who was one of the nine former Spartans to claim the record.
“I was extremely happy for him and the team,” Bush said. “I feel with any record, the group shares that. Our program has been around for 37 years with so much tradition. To think of a record being set for goals in a game with all the talent and great teams in that time period is something special.”
On a rainy night in Tampa, the 5-foot-10-inch Liverpool, England native came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, searching to add to the storm. It only took Downing five minutes to net his first goal, and that’s all the time he needed to pour it on. Slashing back and forth out of the scoring box Downing took every opportunity he could at the goalie, anticipating open gaps.
“Bay’s greatest trait as a player is his ability to take players on the final third and his service into the box,” Bush said.
Indeed, Downing did give a service that night scoring his second goal in the 23’ minute off a drop pass from a teammate who found him in the position to score. As the weather picked up so did he and within less than a minute and a half later Downing scored his third goal on the night to complete the hat trick.
Although, Downing wouldn’t stop there as adrenaline rushed through his body giving him an edge before going into the locker room at the break. With time ticking down in the first half he had one more in him that would tie the single-game scoring record. In the 44’ minute Downing scored his fourth goal of the match off a header that found the back of the net.
“I didn’t really know about the record until my coach [Bush] told me at halftime,” Downing said. “He told me that he wanted me to beat his record at halftime. I knew I would have the chance, I just had to position myself in front of the goal. All the extra practice paid off.”
The action slowed down in the second half, but Downing knew he had a chance to make history. With having the help from his teammates Downing totaled a game-high seven shots and five shots on goal, one of which shattered the record. In the 79’ minute Downing scored off an assist from freshman forward Chris Dusabe.
“Scoring a goal is one of the best feelings you can get as an athlete,” Downing said. “The fact that it happens five times in the same game and broke the UT record made it a special night for me.”
But that wasn’t the only thing that made the night so memorable for Downing, it was being able to play in front of his parents. Downing, who is an international student from Europe, was fortunate to have his mother and father supporting him in the stands to witness the biggest highlight of his soccer career.
“My parents came over from the U.K. to watch, so I decided I would magically start scoring,” Downing said with a laugh. “It was a bunch of mixed emotions. All I can say is that if you keep believing in yourself and persevering things will eventually pay off.”
Downing waited all season long for a breakthrough laboring for the light at the end of the tunnel. His struggle earlier on in the season with putting points on the board was made easier by having the support from Bush.
“Coach has been a great asset to me,” Downing said. “He kept reiterating that he believed in me even when I was going through a drought, so I thank him for that. He doesn’t care who scores as long as we win. He is as passionate as anyone of the players.”
Downing did everything he could to get back on the pitch and to start producing for his team, and although shattering the single-game scoring record is something that he will never forget, he can’t thank his teammates enough for setting him up to succeed.
“I would like to thank my teammates for supporting me and allowing me to get the record,” Downing said. “Without us pushing each other everyday in training we wouldn’t improve, so the record should really have all our names on it.”
Candace Martino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org