Local Sports, Sports, Trinity Christian, University

Hornandez’s goal the difference as University tops Trinity 1-0

MORGANTOWN — University sophomore Brayan Hornandez might have been the smallest player on the field at Mylan Pharmaceutical Stadium Thursday night. Luckily for the Hawks, he might also have had the strongest leg.

Hornandez scored the only goal in the game, a strike from the right side of the box in the second half, as University defeated cross-town foe Trinity Christian 1-0 to close out its home schedule this season.

“That little guy has the strongest foot on the team,” UHS head coach Michael Smith said of Hornandez. “It’s like a knuckleball every time it comes off his foot. I feel bad for keepers and (UHS goalie) Connor (Montgomery) hates it in practice. I can understand what (Trinity goalie) Ben (Lohmann) had to deal with there, it was an unbelievable shot.”

Hornandez’s goal came 25 minutes into the second half of Thursday’s contest. It was the Hawks’ (8-8-1) ninth shot of the game, but the first one where they were able to find a little room and get a shot off with some velocity.

With Trinity (10-4-4) deploying a defensive formation of nine players back on their own half, University knew its best option was to control possession and get off as many shots as possible until one finally went in.

“You don’t want to necessarily have to play that way in a game where you’re trying out a new formation, but it presents a new challenge,” Smith said. “The guys were getting a little frustrated, especially in the first half.”

The Hawks dominated possession, but Trinity’s defensive cluster ensured that there were very few hard shots for senior goalie Ben Lohmann to stop. Lohmann finished with 18 saves, but many were shots from outside of the box that did not have a good chance to go in.

“We knew we needed to defend extremely well and to be compact,” Trinity coach Dan Lohmann said. 

The downside to the Warriors’ strategy was that their chances on offense came few and far between. Trinity threatened just once in the first half, on a throw-in on University’s side of the field, and did not get a shot in the second until there was 17:30 left to play.

“The great thing about that is if we can get a goal then if (Trinity) wants a result they have to start pushing and things will open up,” Smith said. “Brayan had a really good shot that I think fooled Ben a little bit.”

When Hornandez scored two minutes later, the Warriors had to balance trying to find the equalizer with staying sound defensively.

“It does change your mindset,” Dan Lohmann said. “You have to go and try and find the equalizer, which opens you up more to what they’re going to bring at you.”

The equalizer nearly came right away when University sent a ball between its own goalie’s legs that mercifully rolled wide of the goal. 

Trinity’s best chance at a goal in the entire game came with 5:45 left when Carmelo Kniska got free in University’s box and ripped a shot that UHS goalie Connor Montgomery was just able to redirect into the top crossbar and away from the goal.

“A lot of what we do is build on defense, but we have some dynamic players up top with speed that can get through,” Dan Lohmann said. “It was a fantastic move for Carmelo to get around and almost put one away.”

Montgomery needed just two saves to secure the shutout.

Both teams are playing out the end of the regular season with the playoffs just two weeks away. University plays at Buckhannon-Upshur on Saturday and then at Bridgeport on Wednesday.

“Trinity presents a different set of problems than other teams we face,” Smith said. “It’s a good team to play going into Buckhannon and Bridgeport and the style that they play.”

Trinity, which won its second OVAC championship in three years on Saturday, has three games left this year, the first of which is a home match against Lewis County on Saturday at noon.

“We talked after the OVAC (championship) that it was an awesome achievement and for them to do it for the second time in three years and to be in the title game three years in a row is awesome,” Dan Lohmann said. “But also we said we need to go forward. We need to take these four games and keep building and getting better towards the playoffs.”