Written by Student Assistant Jake Bilyeu
TACOMA, Wash. – After fighting back to the top three in the Northwest Conference standings last weekend, the Pacific Lutheran University men's soccer team turns its attention to crosstown rival University of Puget Sound this weekend, as the Lutes hope to continue to climb when they host the Loggers at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon at East Field in the Battle of the South Sound.
The Lutes (5-4-2, 3-2-1 NWC) are coming off their most impressive string of performances in any weekend yet this season. Their two wins against George Fox University (3-0) and Pacific University (2-1 in double overtime) could provide an extra boost of momentum to help the team power through the remainder of the season.
"This last weekend was really important for us for two reasons," head coach John Yorke said. "We needed to put ourselves in a position where we could stay in the conference race, and we needed to prove to ourselves that we could put together two good performances in a row.
In order to keep gaining momentum, The Lutes will need to build off of their recent play, and continue striving for that consistency that Yorke has been trying to instill in them since the season began
"I believe that, at our best, we can compete with anybody in our conference," Yorke said. "When we struggle, it has more to do with our own issues, and so we're always trying to work on being the best version of ourselves, rather than playing up or down to whatever opponent we get each weekend."
One of the many Lutes that can assist in that effort is junior Chris Trussel. In his second year as a Lute, Trussel has been rewarded for his efforts to improve his game with more playing time, and he's played a much greater role in the team's success this year as a result.
"It starts in practice, and we've put an emphasis on that this year so that it's easier for us in games," said Trussel, who transferred to PLU from Saint Mary's University in Minnesota after his freshman season. "I think that's translated over really nicely for everyone."
In addition to his improvement as a soccer player, Trussel has also furthered his understanding of what it means to be a Lute. While Trussel has brought intensity and focus into every game this season, he's got some extra hype in store for the Loggers this weekend.
"Last year I thought it was just another game until it actually started and I saw how much the fans got into it and how much it meant to the seniors," Trussel said. "This year I'm hoping to bring more excitement, because we want to show UPS who the best team in Tacoma is."
A win could bring the Lutes one step closer to the top of conference play. Either way, they'll continue their pursuit of the top of the NWC next week, when they'll welcome Pacific and George Fox to begin the second half of conference play.
Oct. 7: PLU vs. Puget Sound at East Field (2:30 p.m.)
Series History: The Lutes and Loggers have met 64 times on the soccer pitch with Puget Sound holding a 34-24-6 advantage in the all-time series. The two Tacoma rivals have split the season series in each of the last two seasons. Last year the Lutes won 1-0 in double overtime on Oct. 8 at East Field before falling 2-1 to UPS on Nov. 5.
About the Loggers: Puget Sound (6-3, 4-2 NWC) makes the short trip across Tacoma having won four of its last five matches.
The Loggers have outscored opponents by a 10-3 margin during that stretch, including 4-1 victories over both Linfield College and Whitworth University.
Puget Sound's lone setback over the last five games was a 1-0 road defeat at the hands of Pacific on Sept. 30. The Loggers quickly rebounded with a 1-0 win over George Fox the following day.
Ezra Kraus and Vincent Von luehrte lead the Loggers in scoring, both claiming three goals on the season while Robert Jorgenson has served as the team's primary goalkeeper, making six starts and logging 12 saves with a 0.67 goals against average.