The Bulldogs battled state-power Hathaway Brown to the end.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
RAVENNA -- The Poland High girls soccer team chose to put aside the preconceived notions it carried into Wednesday's Division II regional semifinal against Hathaway Brown.
And only then could the Bulldogs make their biggest discovery: They could hold their ground against a Cleveland-area power.
"You read about teams that you've never heard about before and then you get on the field," Poland senior Laura Hassay said.
"They were nothing that we thought they were going to be. We really, truly felt that we could have beaten them."
With a resilient effort, Poland's veteran team threw a scare into Hathaway Brown, but the Bulldogs couldn't avoid their greatest fear: Having their season end with a 1-0 defeat at Ravenna Stadium.
K.K. Hanna headed home a ball with 28 minutes, 12 seconds remaining in the game, lifting Hathaway Brown (16-2-2) past Poland (14-5-1) and into the regional final.
Although it enjoyed few offensive opportunities, Poland matched the aggressive style that the bigger, more physical Hathaway Brown players brought into the game.
"Coming into the game, we read about how good they were and how we didn't have a chance," Poland senior Ellen Midgely said. "But after the first five minutes, we just wanted to beat them."
The Bulldogs played like it, keeping the game scoreless at halftime, when Hassay used the downtime to pump confidence into her team.
"I saw them play against Cardinal Mooney, and I was very impressed with how tough these kids were defensively," Hathaway Brown coach Dennis Weyn said of the Bulldogs. "I warned my girls that it wasn't going to be easy to score."
A respectful statement, considering the Blazers attack opposing defenses with two of the state's best players in junior Courtney Rosen and sophomore Chrissy Butler.
Poland countered with Midgely and Hassay, who effectively shadowed Hathaway Brown's standouts for much of the game.
"What I preach to the girls is containment -- don't over-commit, just contain," Poland coach Jim Sutman said. "They really understand that."
But the Bulldogs couldn't prevent Hathaway Brown from scoring its key goal, which was orchestrated off a corner kick.
Junior Katherine Tyler crossed the ball into the box, with Butler heading it to Hanna for the game-winner.
"Everyone was marked up appropriately," Sutman said. "Their girl was just taller than our girl, and she got her head on it. That happens in soccer."
Poland sophomore goalkeeper Sam Stanich played a strong game against the offensive-minded Blazers, who had more shots (19-8) and corner kicks (9-1) than the Bulldogs. She made eight saves.
"Sam really came on the last six games of the season," Sutman said.
The Bulldogs' loss was especially tough to take, as nine seniors ended their high school soccer careers in tears and hugs.
"If you would have asked me in June whether we'd be in this game, I would have said that we won't be anywhere close," Sutman said. "So I'm going to remember the heart and soul and the progress that the seniors made. They elevated the play of their peers."