WACO — Gatesville’s season is over, but Abate Hennessy believes this is only the beginning.

For the second consecutive season, the Hornets fell in their playoff opener, losing to Waco University 5-1 in the Region III-4A bi-district round at Waco ISD Stadium on Monday.

Despite the outcome, Hennessy views the experience of playing the defending state champions as a positive one, believing it can only help Gatesville’s young team mature.

“This was really great,” the junior said. “We know what we can do now, and we are basically getting everyone back. It helps us figure out what we need to work on, and we should be better next year.”

University was never challenged, scoring four unanswered goals in the first half, but Gatesville head coach Van Collins was pleased with his team’s overall showing, especially early in the game.

“It took them a while to get going,” he said of the Trojans. “We were actually frustrating them a little bit, which is nice for us to see. Coaches were calling

kids aside, telling them what to do, but they finally cracked it. I figured they would, but I was proud of how we really fought to the end.”

The Hornets (10-11-1) kept pace with the defending state champions through the first 10 minutes before Trojans senior Aron Alvarez took a pass from teammate Eric Cazares and delivered it to the back of the net.

University took complete control 12 minutes later, scoring a pair of goals within 30 seconds of each other.

In the 14th minute, Adam Gutierrez pushed the Trojans’ advantage to 2-0, and 24 seconds later, Humberto Cruz’s goal increased University’s lead to three goals.

“That hurt,” Hennessy said. “But we didn’t put our head down. We still had plenty of game left. We just had to fix it real quick and forget about what happened.”

Mounting a comeback, however, was easier said than done.

The Trojans (24-2) continued to dominate the ball, adding another goal with seven minutes remaining to push their lead to 4-0 heading into halftime.

While Collins admitted his players committed some mental errors to help the Trojans build their commanding lead, he believes his team responded well in the second half.

“We had a goal of not letting them score six goals,” he said, “and they didn’t.”

Less than five minutes into the second half, the Trojans struck again, but Gatesville held them scoreless for the duration of the contest, and the Hornets’ offense finally broke through in the match’s final five minutes.

With 4:47 remaining, Ernesto Hernandez recorded the Hornets’ lone goal, giving his team something to celebrate.

“I was going to fight to the end,” the sophomore said. “I ran with all the speed I had and shot it. I didn’t know how I was going to make it, but I worked it in.”

The loss ends the high school careers of seven Gatesville seniors, including Dykota Smith, Ben Adams, Ronnie Barber, Pedro Campos, Jared Kemp, Austin Combs and Tariq Miller. Additionally, the Hornets are losing foreign exchange student Johannes Zum Felde.

While Collins knows replacing the group will be difficult, he believes his program is destined for big things in the years to come.

“We’ve got some guys coming back that we are excited to have back,” he said. “If we can keep this going, I think we can go into next year and really make a run at something, whether it be playoffs, district championship or the first playoff win in program history. … Things that we want to do are definitely obtainable next year, and that is for sure.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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