Nov 07, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
On the Hamilton boys soccer team, they’re picking up some good habits – like winning championships, and beating Poland on a regular basis.
Both trends continued Friday night at Waterville High School’s turf, as the Emerald Knights rode a big second half to a 3-2 victory over the Tornadoes and won its second consecutive Section III Class D title.
On each of these occasions, those sectional banners have been claimed at Poland’s expense – and Hamilton hopes this, like 2008, will ultimately lead to a state championship, too.
Much was made of how Hamilton’s roster underwent a complete makeover following ’08, when eight seniors departed.
Yet it was one of the stars that didn’t leave – Dan Kraynak, owner of the overtime goal that won the state title last November – that has become the breakout star of these sectional playoffs.
First, Kraynak accounted for all three of Hamilton’s goals in a hat trick to beat top seed Copenhagen 3-0 in the sectional Class D semifinals last Tuesday at Henninger High School. Then he got two goals in the final, meaning that, of his 14 goals this season, eight have come in the playoffs.
Hamilton was facing Poland in the post-season for the fourth year in a row. They had played twice in September, and the Emerald Knights won each of those meetings, both by 1-0 margins.
There would be no shutout in this, the third and most important clash.
Hamiton controlled the early portion of the game with a long series of attacks, but the Tornadoes turned them all away, leaving defenders back and having goalie Justin Weakley make several of his 10 saves on the night.
In the 22nd minute, Poland took full advantage of a Hamilton turnover to end its long shutout spell. Kenny Miller charged down the left side, fed to the middle – then saw Dean Agen rip a point-blank shot past Kinon Nolan-Finkel.
Still trailing, 1-0, as the second half started, Hamilton needed something to go right – and Kraynak gave it to them. Just 2:06 into the half, Kraynak, from 25 yards out, unleashed one of his patented low, hard shots that carried so much force that it pushed Weakley into the net, and it was tied 1-1.
Poland responded five minutes later, going back in front 2-1 as Agen’s hard shot from the left side just slid through Nolan-Finkel’s hands into the net.
But that lead didn’t last, either, as in the 53rd minute Jack Sullivan equalized it for the Emerald Knights, heading Dan Meeks’ free kick past Weakley. It was the first shot Sullivan, a defender, had taken all year, and it was tied again at 2-2.
As the action and tension built, Kraynak resumed his post-season scoring rampage. In the 62nd minute, Kraynak found his favorite spot, 25 yards from the net, and ripped another low, hard screamer that, like his first goal, slid off Weakley’s hands past the goal line, and Hamilton led for good.
Over the game’s last 18 minutes, Sullivan and the Emerald Knights’ defense turned back every Poland charge. Nolan-Finkel worked his total to seven saves, and Hamilton had its fifth sectional title in the program’s history.
The Emerald Knights will meet Section IV champion Margaretville, in the regional finals next Saturday, with the winner going back to the National Soccer Hall of Fame complex in Oneonta for the Nov. 21-22 state final four.