The Burkhardt brothers from Palmyra, Pa. are entering their fourth season as Pirates, but their 21st as best friends. Corey, a redshirt junior by eligibility, and Spencer, a senior, have been through it all together. From being home-schooled until eighth grade, to playing on the same clubs as teenagers, to Seton Hall, the Burkhardt twins’ ride has been lengthy and arduous, but the joy of the journey has been amplified by having each other.
“Obviously it’s different than just having a best friend that you play with,” Corey said. “Anywhere we went, whether it was a new club, a new team, a new experience, you already knew someone, so that foreign factor of not knowing what to do or feeling uncomfortable with anything was never there.”
Growing up in a small town, Corey and Spencer had plenty of time to work on their soccer skills. Now a defender and midfielder, respectively, the two often battled in their backyard to supplement training.
The two brothers, along with their neighborhood friends, would often attempt to finish their work early enough to ensure time outside to train before practice. Through all the time spent honing their craft, the twins adopted unique playing styles that still follow them today.
“We kind of developed our identities in soccer. He always liked playing defense more than I did,” Spencer said. “Whenever we did one-on-one battles, he’d try to get better at offense, so we’d challenge each other in that way.”
Following high school, the brothers then moved to Seton Hall to continue their careers together. Despite it working out in the end, going to the same college and playing in the same program was not always a priority.
“It wasn’t necessarily something that was needed or that we would only say yes to schools that wanted both of us,” Corey said. “Seton Hall became one of the ones that was higher up because they showed a larger interest in both of us compared to others that had more of an interest in one and lower interest in the other.”
On top of being able to play together, Seton Hall was an enticing option to the brothers for several other reasons. Despite the hardships the soccer program has faced during their tenure here, the two do not regret their choice.
“One of the reasons why we chose this school was its location, its opportunities,” Corey said.”We both felt, even three years ago, four years ago, that this place was going to provide us with an environment that we can grow in,”
“One thing that Spencer and I have always been honest with each other about is that we wanted to enjoy wherever we went, and we both understood that this place was somewhere we can do that.”
Although Corey has one year of eligibility remaining in his collegiate career, Spencer’s Pirate run is finishing in December. The brothers have never experienced a winning season at Seton Hall, so the new-look team, led by new head coach Andreas Lindberg, has provided a breath of fresh air. Although it has been an adjustment in the late stages of their time in the program, both brothers have appreciated the work put in by Lindberg and the win-now culture he puts forth.
“I like how motivated [Lindberg] is to win,” Spencer said. “I just want to be a part of the journey of winning. I like his mentality that everyone is important, and everyone has a role.”
Over the summer, while Corey worked on an internship for his business career, Spencer was playing for Reading United, a developmental team based two hours from the Burkhardt’s hometown. The team went undefeated in his time there, which only amplified his will to make the 2018 campaign a success for the Pirates.
Even if things do not go perfectly, however, both brothers have loved their time at Seton Hall, especially getting the chance to play together yet again.
“Even with some of the results that have happened in the last three years, we’ve both completely enjoyed ourselves here and that speaks to not only the athletics department but also just the school in general,” Corey said. “When you find that you enjoy the school, it means you were meant to be there. Hopefully this year we can make it an overall great experience with athletics and academics combined. It’s been unforgettable and I wouldn’t have done it any other way, especially having Spencer come along with myself.”
“[Corey] has been my best friend since birth,” Spencer added to his brother’s sentiment. “It’s been a lot of fun and the opportunity that Seton Hall gave both of us to come to college and be a part of a Division I soccer program and to compete with each other, not a lot of people can say it’s been that special.”
As the team looks ahead to Big East play, which starts on Sept. 22 against Marquette, the Burkhardt twins are not focused on the future, but rather on the task at hand – to help bring a title to the program.
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.