COLUMBIA — Columbia College freshman forward Trey Bristow received a handshake from head coach John Klein and a hug from assistant coach John Desha after jogging off the field.
In his first start for the Columbia College men's soccer team, Bristow's second-half goal gave the Cougars a two-goal edge and helped clinch the 2-0 victory Tuesday against visiting Missouri S&T for Klein's club.
"Trey wanted to have a chance," Klein said, "and he got a chance, and then he scored."
With a 5-2 finish in their American Midwest Conference schedule and the seeding for the postseason conference tournament set, many Cougars showed they still had reasons to play hard and Bristow made the most of his opportunity.
"Coach thinks I'm doing better, so he gave me a chance and a couple others to start on a game that wasn't in conference, but still meant a lot to us for record," Bristow said.
Klein said he thought many of his players are also fighting for playing time.
Bristow has another motivation.
"For the love of soccer," he said. "You never want to come out and lose. I mean, that's why we're playing in college. We're out here for one reason — to win. If it's a scrimmage game against our own friends or it's for conference or a championship, we're going to play hard and try to win no matter what."
As a substitute, Bristow struggled to find the back of the net during the season, coming close on a couple occasions, and just seemed to have bad luck. During the Cougars' last home game against Missouri Baptist, Bristow's shot fizzled out right on the goal line before junior teammate Parker Rawdon knocked the ball in.
"He's young," Klein said about Bristow's career thus far, "and he still plays a little bit young."
Even though it looks like Bristow matured a little Tuesday night, he still has some growing up to do. Despite the fact the blue-eyed Bristow commented on his goal with the poise of a veteran who has scored a hundred times before, his words revealed how much he was excited about it.
"It feels good to finally have one," he said, "and to do it, like, by myself with a good goal too, not like a tap-in. It was a good shot with my left foot and I'm not left-footed."
Freshman teammate Matt McKenna also may have betrayed him.
"It's good for him to get a goal," he said. "He'll be talking about that for a while."
McKenna got his second start in front of the net for the Cougars and now has the same number of shutouts to his name. Klein wanted to give him some experience before the postseason when the usual starter senior Ken Searles will tend the goal.
"I was nervous at the start cause I haven't played much," McKenna said, "but it felt good to get another shutout."
McKenna said he got control of his nerves after making a save off a corner kick. It was one of the few times he was tested in what proved to be a quiet evening for McKenna.
"He did really well," Bristow said. "We never doubted he couldn't do it. He got his second chance and I think it's his second shutout. He's doing pretty good.
The Cougars earned the No. 3 seed in the AMC tournament, but the event's schedule is still being worked out.