A familiar story is playing out for the Hamilton boys soccer team, in that to repeat as Section III Class D champions (and to continue its quest for back-to-back state titles), it will have to beat Poland.
The latest chapter of the Hamilton-Poland saga was made possible by Tuesday's Class D semifinal, where the Emerald Knights rode a Dan Kraynak hat trick and some spectacular defense past top seed Copenhagen 3-0 at Henninger High School's Sunnycrest Field.
Kraynak is best known for putting in the winning goal to cap Hamilton's comeback victory in last year's state final. Against the Gold Knights, his post-season magic continued.
Less than nine minutes into the game, Kraynak, off a pass from Dan Meeks, fired a low, long shot, from more than 35 yards out. With Copenhagen goalie Paul Sawyer screened out, the ball stayed on target and fit just inside the right post.
Staked to that early 1-0 lead, Hamilton needed all kinds of great defensive work to withstand Copenhagen's charges the rest of the half. In the 17th minute, with goalie Kinon Nolan-Finkel out of position on a corner kick, Jack Sullivan had to make a save, and on the rebound, Nolan-Finkel dove to prevent the Gold Knights from the tying goal.
Early in the second half, Copenhagen continued to probe, only to see Drew Thompson make a timely clear and Nolan-Finkel make another first-rate stop a few minutes later.
Then it was back to Kraynak in the 58th minute for more long-distance magic, as he fired from close to the same range as the first goal and struck it into the top of the net, Meeks again earning the assist. To cap it off late, Kraynak, off a feed from Mikey Jones, drilled a 38-yard shot home for the hat trick.
As this went on, no. 2 seed Poland edged past Cincinnatus, 1-0, setting up the second straight sectional final between the Emerald Knights and Tornadoes. Hamilton, of course, won the title game in 2008, and also claimed both regular-season meetings in September by 1-0 margins -- the only defeats Poland has taken this season.