FGCU soccer player breaks NCAA hat trick record

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Albert Ruiz (Photo via Linwood Ferguson/Captive Photons)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Florida Gulf Coast University junior forward Albert Ruiz accomplished something Tuesday that no NCAA Division I soccer player is believed to have ever done.

On Wednesday, he said it means nothing to him.

Perhaps Ruiz’s humility has to do with the way Rutgers nearly came back to beat the Eagles after he scored three goals less than 10 minutes into FGCU’s 6-5 road win Tuesday. The NCAA doesn’t keep official tallies for fastest hat tricks, but the quickest on record to three goals in NCAA Division I history had been Steve Burks of Indiana, who had his trio of scores 11 minutes and 41 seconds into a 1973 game against Indiana State, FGCU spokesman Jason MacBain said.

Ruiz scored his third goal just nine minutes and two seconds in.

Albert Ruiz (Photo via Linwood Ferguson/Captive Photons)
Albert Ruiz (Photo via Linwood Ferguson/Captive Photons)

“This record doesn’t mean anything if we don’t do things at the end of the year, so I just did what I’m supposed to do,” Ruiz said. “And it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t make things happen at the NCAA tournament or the A-Sun tournament.”

The 15th-ranked Eagles are already making their presence known as a national force. They’re the NCAA’s highest-scoring team, and Tuesday’s victory was FGCU’s seventh straight, tying them for the longest winning streak in the country.

“We still have a lot of things to improve,” Ruiz said. “… I’m glad we got the win this way, because that makes us realize that we still have a lot of things to improve.”

Ruiz scored his first two goals at the 5:42 and 8:24 marks. The three-minute, 20-second span between the trio of goals is the third-shortest amount of time it’s taken anyone in NCAA history to compile a hat trick, MacBain said. But what made Ruiz’s performance unique is that it came so quickly into the contest.

Redshirt sophomore forward Arion Sobers-Assue followed with a score at the 9:21 mark, meaning the Eagles as a team scored three goals in 57 seconds. Only the 43 seconds that it took Syracuse to score three times against Fordham on Oct. 17, 1989 bettered that distinction.

It didn’t take too much longer for FGCU to score its fifth goal, which came at the 16:16 mark from Sobers-Assue.

“Everything looks easy now, but I remember in my freshman year between me and Arion, we had two goals between us,” Ruiz said. “Not two goals each. Two goals between us, and look at us now. It’s been two years of working hard, and now we’re getting the results I guess that we deserve.”

Ruiz, who is tied for the national lead with 11 goals this season, said his career turned around when he delivered a poor performance in a fitness test after winter break his freshman year, prompting some frank talk from head coach Bob Butehorn.

“He came to me and told me, ‘Hey, Albert, you have a really good scholarship. You need to know we have hope in you. They are really putting a decent amount of money on (you) to be able to come here, and you’re not being as professional as you’re supposed to be,'” Ruiz said. “And after this day, to be honest, my mindset just changed completely.”

It’s Ruiz’s work ethic that’s made the difference, according to Butehorn.

“His first year, he couldn’t buy goals,” Butehorn said. “Last year, he kind of got it going, and this year, just through his hard work and, really, determination, he gets some goals.”

Ruiz went out after the 25th minute with soreness in his right knee that stemmed from an injury he suffered a week earlier against Florida Atlantic, but he said Wednesday that he’s optimistic about being 100 percent for FGCU’s next game Oct. 4 at Florida International.

He was one of four players on the FGCU roster who were unavailable by game’s end because of injury or suspension. Once Ruiz exited, FGCU notched just one more goal, in the 71st minute, and Rutgers nearly rallied to win before the Eagles held on to run their record to 7-2-1.

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