By AUSTIN COLBERT
Fort Hays State University's Diego Cabral feels lucky. Sure, the men's soccer team's all-time assists leader is good at what he does, but when you have so many weapons to pass to, it makes things a lot easier for the senior midfielder.
"It's easy for me because I have so many good people and so many good players moving around me. It makes is way easier to make runs," Cabral said. "There are games where you just see everything slower, in slow motion, and you can play the balls. And there are games where it moves so fast and those spaces are not there. So it's a lot of practice, mentally, to get ready for the game."
Cabral came through again on Saturday, getting a school-record five assists in the Tigers' 8-3 win over Southern Nazarene University (3-9 overall, 2-5 MIAA) at the FHSU Soccer Stadium. The eight goals tied a school record set in an 8-0 win over Lindenwood University on Sept. 25.
Leading the offensive effort was freshman forward Maurizio Costa, who recorded his first hat trick with three goals against SNU.
"He did a great job of that today, making great runs. His movement was good and he got himself in good positions," FHSU soccer coach Brett Parker said of Costa. "He's a big, strong kid and he likes to just really strike the ball. For him to just place balls and be smart about his finishing today was good to see from him."
The Tigers led 3-0 at halftime, Costa scoring the first goal at 23:30 on an assist from Cabral. Junior forward Joe Albright scored goals two and three late in the half to reach the three-goal advantage at the break.
FHSU (8-3-1, 5-2) scored again less than three minutes into the second half, Costa's second giving the Tigers a 4-0 lead. The game got interesting in a hurry after that, with SNU scoring back-to-back goals, both by Edgar Pineda, in the span of seven minutes to cut the Tigers' lead in half.
"They have a couple of very, very good attacking players. If you lose a little bit of focus, those players hurt you," Parker said. "I thought with the balance we would score one or two and then they would make a good play and get a goal. But just got a little bit sloppy and it's hard when you are scoring that many goals, it's hard to really maintain the focus."
FHSU answered with Costa's third goal at 65:42. Junior David Lucio made it 6-2 with a goal at 68:02, and less than a minute later senior Tanner Brock scored a goal for the fifth straight game to make it 7-2.
SNU got one goal back at 69:51 from Javier Caballeros, before FHSU freshman Brian Ness put the final touches on the game with a goal at 83:38.
The win avenged a 2-0 loss to SNU on Sept. 20 in Bethany, Okla., a game Parker called the "low point" of the Tigers' season. FHSU has now won six straight since that loss and looks nothing like the team that started the season 2-3-1.
"Let me tell you, at the beginning we were not very grouped as a team," Costa said. "As time passed we got very united and that helps us a lot. Now we are one team and that helps us a lot. We understand each other; we talk to each other every single game. That helps us a lot and that's why we are getting stronger and stronger every time."
The No. 24-ranked Tigers will next play at Southwest Baptist University (0-12, 0-7) on Thursday in Bolivar, Mo., the first of three straight on the road.