Trinity Lutheran senior Chris Rust put together the strongest game of his soccer career Monday by notching three scores and two assists in a 5-1 win against Salem.
“(Rust) played the best game in the three years that I’ve been coaching him here,” Cougars coach Brandan Tabeling said. “I think we ride him hard sometimes, but we ride him hard because we see the potential in him.
“As a senior leader, if we’re going to do anything in sectionals he’s going to need to be somebody that steps up and helps us score goals. It was nice to see him kind of get the weight off his shoulders. Every single one of our goals — he had an impact, whether it was scoring or assisting. He’s a good dribbler and shooter and he can really change the game when he gets going.”
Cougars sophomore Sam Hayes also had a strong day, finishing with two goals for his squad.
In the first half, the Cougars tallied the first score when Rust slotted a shot from five yards with his left foot, off a past by Bobby Tabeling, past Lions keeper Chandler Coleman at 7:37.
At intermission, the Cougars maintained a 1-0 lead.
Two minutes into the second half, Hayes finished Rust’s pass for the Cougars’ second goal.
“We told them at halftime that 1-0 wasn’t going to win this game; we needed to at least get a couple in the goal,” Tabeling said. “Thankfully, we jumped-up 2-0 before they scored. We tried to move some faster up front and push their guys, and we were able to open it up in the second half.”
Hayes pushed another score in at 25:39 following a cross from Rust outside the box.
With two injuries to their squad, one in the first half and the other in the latter, the Cougars had 10 players on the field for the final 20 minutes of play.
Rust tallied his second goal, at 15:24, by shooting a hard shot over Coleman off a punt from Cole Allman.
At 5:07, Rust secured a hat trick by slamming a shot so hard at Coleman that the keeper took two steps back over the goal line.
“Thankfully we had a lead at that point,” Tabeling said of his short-staffed team. “It was nice to see Chris get those two goals with 10 guys. It was good to see Chris step up and take over at the end of the game.”
In goal, Allman finished with 12 saves on top of his assist.
Tabeling said that he felt his team did a better job of maintaining possession in the midfield against the Lions.
“Our weakest point as a team, in general, is our possession and combination passing while moving,” Tabeling said. “It’s something we’ve been really working on in practice. Everyone has played two or three positions this year. We’ve been looking to see where there’s the best chemistry to work the ball up the field.”