Stacey Brinkman Interview
As SUU soccer forward Stacey Brinkman’s teammates surrounded her Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Soccer Field, tears of joy began to flow. Every emotion bottled up inside exploded in a moment that could only be drawn up for the theatres.
Brinkman, who battled past two torn ACL injuries, a redshirt season and the only coaching change in T-Bird history during her career, had just broken the school record for goals in a career at the last possible moment — the 104 minute of a double overtime victory over Cal State-Bakersfield 3-2 Sunday afternoon.
In the midst of the celebration, the chant erupted.
“Grey sweat suits! Grey sweat suits! Grey sweat suits!” the players on the SUU soccer team yelled.
Then, like something out of a movie, Stacey’s teammates held her up and carried her off the field — a fairytale ending for anyone to cap their career with.
However, it all started with a simple bet placed earlier in the month, well before Stacey realized she was closing in on the record goal she just broke.
Stacey will be the first to admit she had no idea she was closing in on Shaley Ipson Allen’s record for most goals in T-Bird soccer history. She said that it was brought up before the team’s final road trip of the season Oct. 12.
“It didn’t even cross my mind that there was a record book to be honest,” she confessed with a grin.
However, SUU head coach Becky Hogan told Stacey she was just two goals away from tying the all-time record and three goals away from breaking it. That weekend, she scored in a 1-1 tie with Northern Colorado.
Then, before a Sunday afternoon game against North Dakota, the bet was made.
By this time, Stacey had become notorious within her team for continuously wearing a matching grey sweat suit combo that her teammates mocked her for. The sweat suit was actually ordered for the entire team, but only Stacey wore both the grey hoodie and grey sweatpants. Everyone else around T-Bird soccer found it to be a gruesome fashion faux pas.
“It’s just grey on grey,” midfielder Morgan Bridge laughed. “The sweat suits are OK. The grey on grey — that’s the bad part.”
But Stacey had no problem with the look.
“I love grey sweat suits. Actually, I think sweat suits are awesome in general because I hate getting ready,” she said with a smile on her face. “I’d rather wear soccer clothes.”
“I think when I tied the record, a lot of people started to put pressure on me — like ‘you have to break this record.' It became a big deal and I struggled in the two games before my last game. I struggled because I was so focused on breaking the record that it almost messed me up, like messed up my groove. I would take shots and miss and be like ‘oh my God, that was my chance.’” - SUU Forward Stacey Brinkman
Shortly before the UND game, Stacey joked to Hogan that if she scored in the contest, Hogan would have to wear Stacey’s signature look. After Hogan scoffed at the idea, Stacey said her teammate Christine Meehan upped the ante.
“(Christine) was like, ‘what happens if (Stacey) breaks the school record — the whole team wears it,” Brinkman said. “I was like ‘That would be the best day ever! That’d be so awesome. We have to do this’ and everyone (agreed).”
The bet had been placed. All Stacey had to do was score two goals in four games, and she’d force her teammates into a clothing statement they loathed. The grey sweat suit combo became a joke, but it was a joke the team was excited to cash in on.
Then, in the 89 minute of SUU’s 3-0 win at UND, Stacey scored to tie the record.
“When I scored, everyone was super excited,” she said. “They were like ‘yay we get to wear the grey sweat suits,’ but I didn’t break it. Everyone was like ‘oh crap, you need one more goal. You better get one more goal because we need to wear these grey sweat suits … that’s how it all started.’”
With three home games left on the docket, Stacey could taste the record. However, she said the shot at breaking the record created a burden she never anticipated.
“I think when I tied the record, a lot of people started to put pressure on me — like ‘you have to break this record,’” she said. “It became a big deal and I struggled in the two games before my last game. I struggled because I was so focused on breaking the record that it almost messed me up, like messed up my groove. I would take shots and miss and be like ‘oh my God, that was my chance.’”
The Final Game
When Stacey laced up for her final game Sunday, the record no longer consumed her life. After two scoreless games and two losses, all she wanted was a win on senior day.
“After two games, I didn’t care if I broke (the record),” she said. “If I break it, great. If I don’t, whatever. I’ve had a great season and I don’t regret anything … I don’t want to say I was over it, but I was just kind of like not focused on it anymore and I was so focused on it at first.”
For Stacey, two torn ACL injuries, the opportunity cost associated with the many years playing the sport and the pure love of soccer boiled down into one final game. She had offers to remain in her hometown and play at UNLV, or book it to San Francisco or Rutgers. However, she chose SUU.
As she looked back at her career, Stacey said that’s when it hit her. Everything she had worked for and the game she had been playing since she was three years old would end the moment she walked off the field Sunday afternoon.
The goal she had worked two weeks for escaped her mind and a new one emerged before SUU’s final game of the year.
“I wanted to make my last game count,” she said. “I would’ve been pissed if we lost, but I didn’t care about anything else. In my mind, nothing crossed it but making this the best game I ever played and making it count.”
After Stacey’s fellow seniors Amanda Humphreys and Missy Lazcano scored in the game, the T-Birds went into overtime tied with CSUB 2-2.
That’s when the magic happened.
The Fairytale Ending
Most athletes’ careers end in a flash. Sometimes it’s with a win; sometimes it ends in bitter defeat. Regardless, not many end it in the same shoes Stacey found herself in Sunday afternoon.
Almost halfway into the second and final overtime period, SUU forward Madison Wood was fouled roughly 20 yards away from the net. Then Hogan called on Brinkman to kick on the penalty.
Bridge said she instantly knew when she saw the foul that Brinkman would walk off the field a hero and everyone on the team knew she would take the shot and win the game.
“I was like ‘OK, we’re going to win now,’” she said. “Because she had to score it. She knew in her mind that if she didn’t, that she would’ve been super sad.”
After initially looking at other options, Brinkman said it was clear to her that she needed to take the shot.
Before the shot, Lazcano adjusted the spot of the ball, something Stacey said she never normally allows. Lazcano then told her what Stacey already knew.
It was time.
“I took a deep breath and said ‘let’s finish this game right now,’” Brinkman said. “I took a deep breath and hit it as hard as I could and it went in. I was like almost in shock.”
“It was the coolest thing. It was by far the coolest way to go out and I wouldn’t have it any other way … it was like a fairytale, like a movie. I mean, how often does that happen? That my team was so happy for me, that made it 10 times better.” - SUU Forward Stacey Brinkman
Brinkman’s kick rocketed past a wall of defenders positioned between her and the net and soared over the outstretched arms of CSUB’s goalkeeper; top shelf right under the crossbar. Needless to say, it couldn’t have been placed any better.
“It was the coolest and most memorable experience of my life,” she said. “It was like a fairytale.”
Lazcano, who was the closest to Brinkman before the shot went in, said the moment was something everyone on the team was rooting for.
“As a team, we all wanted her to score and get the record,” Lazcano said, following the game. “She finally did. We all just wanted her to get it and knowing that she got it — it’s a big thing. It (felt) really good.”
Humphreys agreed with Lazcano’s sentiments.
“It was insane,” she said, after the win. “It was so good — the best way to end the game. There’s no better way. I’m so happy for Stacey too, and to say I played with her, that’s even better.”
As the team rushed Stacey in hugs, the chant of “grey sweat suits!” overshadowed any other cheers in the ruckus. Then, before the moment could sink in, her teammates carried her off the field on their shoulders as the team saluted the crowd.
“We started running to the fence and my team starts lifting me up,” Brinkman recalled. “I was like ‘this is so awkward — come on guys, this is awkward.’ I didn’t know what to do and I was up there and everyone is screaming … after I thought about it, it made sense. I was the number one leading goal scorer.”
It was the moment every athlete dreams his or her career ends like.
“It was the coolest thing,” Brinkman said. “It was by far the coolest way to go out and I wouldn’t have it any other way … it was like a fairytale, like a movie. I mean, how often does that happen? That my team was so happy for me, that made it 10 times better.”
The next day, after the excitement of the moment withered away, the bet was cashed in. Each player and coach went to classes and work fully clad in Brinkman’s signature matching grey sweat suit combo.
Brinkman finished her end of the bargain when she broke the school record, so her teammates ponied up. That afternoon, the entire team met up outside the soccer field for a team photo in the matching grey sweat suits.
“(Monday) was the second best day of my life,” Brinkman said, laughing.