Kniska’s hat trick powers Trinity to 5-1 win in section semifinal

MORGANTOWN — Taking a two-goal lead early in a contest should allow a team to relax a little bit. When Trinity Christian scored two goals in the first six minutes against Oak Glen on Thursday, however, it only fired the Warriors up more.

“If anything, I think it gives us more energy actually,” said senior Carmeloa Kniska, who scored both early goals. “We had played them earlier in the season and we had a good result, but they’ve gotten better and you never know what’s going to happen in soccer. So in a sense it helped us relax, but at the same time it gave us more energy because we love the game and we’re going to keep playing hard.”

Kniska added a third first-half goal to complete the hat trick as Trinity (10-6-5) went on to win 5-1 and advance to Saturday’s Class AA/A Region I, Section I championship.

“It felt pretty good, honestly.,” Kniska said of his first-half hat trick. “This is coming up on some of my last games as a senior and I’m just trying to enjoy every moment I get.”

Kniska scored the first goal just two minutes in on a breakaway up the left side of the field. The next goal came two minutes later when he headed in a corner kick.

The Warriors scoring in two-minute intervals is actually something head coach Dan Lohmann emphasizes.

“Human nature is that you settle back a little bit and then you might take it easy,” Lohmann said. “We try to challenge them after every goal, no matter if we concede a goal or we score one, to try in the next two minutes and keep the energy up.”

Leading 3-0 to start the second half, Lohmann wanted his team to shore up a bit defensively while still generating good scoring chances.

“What we concentrated on was defensive assignments and then counter attack quickly,” he said. “We were encouraging them to play simple. They were trying to do a little bit too much in the first half and the ball was getting stuck to our foot.”

Evan Knight scored Trinity’s fourth goal on an impressive crossing pass from Kniska and Carter Hartsock added the fifth on a penalty kick.

Oak Glen got on the board with five minutes to play when Preston Cole beautifully curved a shot into the upper left corner of the Warriors’ goal to make it 5-1.

Senior Ben Lohmann made eight saves in the Warriors’ net while Richie Gudino matched him with eight for the Golden Bears.

Trinity will play the winner of Weir and Wheeling Central in the section championship Saturday morning at home at 11 a.m.

“It’s going to be fun,” Kniska said. “We don’t know who we play yet, but both teams we’ve been rivals with. The last three years, I’ve had some of my best games against Weir and Wheeling Central. It’s just going to be fun, but we have to realize it’s just another game.”