POLAND — A quick peek at the cage is all Hwida Nawass needed.
“I saw my sister pass the ball to me, and the goalie was on her left side,” Nawass said. “I pulled it up so I could shoot it.”
On the only penalty corner try in overtime, on Poland’s only shot in the extra frame, Hwida Nawass corralled a pass from sister Higera, faked left, turned right and fired the ball at the cage, beating Greely keeper Kylie Rogers on a slowly bounding ball just inside the left post to lift Poland to a 2-1 win over the Rangers in the teams’ Class B South preliminary round playoff matchup Saturday afternoon.
“I had to pull around her and kind of fake her out in a way,” Hwida Nawass said. “So she would fall to one side.
“I didn’t have a strong hit in, so I wasn’t expecting it to go in,” Nawass added. “I probably should have had more power on it.”
Power or not, the ball found the back of the cage, putting an end to a tightly contested 7-10 playoff battle. The win is the Knights’ first in the playoffs in at least 10 years in just their third appearance in the postseason.
“We knew coming off the 2014 season that we would need a little bit of reloading in the 2015 season, get our feet wet a bit,” Poland coach Amy Hediger said. “We wanted to put it all together for this year.”
And while heading into overtime isn’t ideal for a young team — Poland dressed only one senior in Saturday’s game — it’s something with which the Knights are familiar, and comfortable.
“We’ve got lots of speed, good passing, and they love having the space in seven-on-seven,” Hediger said. “A lot of them play on elite teams in the offseason, and there’s that element of just knowing how to react to each other. We have lots of strengths out there, with speed, quickness and stick skills, one-on-one skills, and they’re just confident in seven-on-seven.”
Greely also fielded a young squad, doing the Knights one better with no seniors in the starting lineup. The Rangers battled through six overtime games this season and earned a playoff berth, and then hung with the Knights all afternoon.
“We have a strong junior class, a strong sophomore class, and I couldn’t ask for more from them, and they’ll all come back next year with the experience they’ve had this year,” Greely coach Beckie Belmore said.
Poland asserted itself early, catching Greely a bit off guard from the opening whistle. Junior Lexi Morey finished her own rebound off Rogers’ pads just 1:04 into the contest to put the home team on top 1-0.
“They caught us flat-footed and on our heels a little bit,” Belmore said.
Poland kept the possession advantage through most of the first half, but the Rangers started to tip momentum back in their own favor, at one point earning four consecutive penalty corner tries and forcing Poland keeper Ashton Strutevant into action.
“They usually rebound really nicely when something like that happens,” Belmore said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better matchup.”
In the second half, Greely turned the tables when Elizabeth Brown redirected a pass out of the air and past Sturtevant at the left post to knot the game at 1-1.
Despite the goal, Poland seemed to calm down a bit after that.
“Our passes, and spreading out, it opened up the field a lot,” Nawass said. “We’re playing so hard, we’re playing for our lives, basically. All that mattered was getting (another) goal in.”
With nothing decided before regulation time expired, the teams headed into overtime, setting the stage for Nawass’ fantastic finish.
“Hwida has to be the calmest player I’ve ever met,” Hediger said. “She’s so much the opposite of me, and most field hockey players. She had that patience, that calmness, and then she just attacks. And when Hwida is involved in the play, it’s never over until the whistle blows.”
The Knights advance to the Class B South quarterfinal round and a matchup with No. 2 Kennebunk, slated for Tuesday. In the teams’ lone regular-season meeting, the Rams tipped the Knights 2-0 in Poland. Tuesday’s game will be in Kennebunk.