Melanie McHugh needed just a sliver of space to recreate the magic that had propelled Garden City this far -- a few inches, to be exact, right between the shin guards.
McHugh scored the winning goal midway though the second half in the Nassau field hockey championship Sunday. On Wednesday night she did it again, and with gusto, pushing Tara DeAngelo's scrambling assist between the goalie's legs with 8:07 left in the first overtime to defeat defending champion Miller Place, 1-0, and reclaim the Class B Long Island title at Dowling.
The Trojans won seven straight Long Island titles before falling in the Nassau final last year. They will face four-time defending state champion Lakeland at 11 a.m. Saturday at White Plains High School.
"That was honestly one of the best feelings of my life,'' McHugh said. "It was a powerful push and I gave it all I had.''
After dozens of near-misses, Garden City seemed incapable of breaking through an otherwise overmatched Miller Place (16-3). The Trojans (17-0) dominated possession for most of the game but couldn't penetrate the vacuum-sealed defense around the scoring circle. Garden City had 11 penalty corners in regulation to the Panthers' five.
"They had their whole team in the circle,'' DeAngelo said. " . . . We created the opportunities but we couldn't finish them.''
Not until DeAngelo corralled an Isabel McKeown pass on the reverse stick and fed to McHugh, with the better angle in the circle. Thanks to 7-on-7 overtime rules and a suddenly less packed cage, that angle turned to opportunity, which turned into a very sweet case of deja vu.
"I don't know, I don't know,'' McHugh said, laughing. "But honestly, it's not even who scores. I would be lying if I said it was my [doing] that won both games. I'm just glad we could get it done.''
Sachem East three-peats in 'A'.Kyle Larkin and Katie Shanahan each scored twice as Sachem East beat Massapequa, 6-1, for its third straight Class A Long Island title. The Flaming Arrows (19-0) face Mamaroneck in the regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday at White Plains.