by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- Less than 24 hours before their Sept. 28 match, Hudson field hockey coach Jen Haney gave senior midfielder Maria Russell a pep talk.
"I told her, 'How about a hat trick,'" Haney said.
Russell may want to consider Haney's advice if she ever wants to play the lottery.
Thanks to Russell's hat trick, the Lady Explorers won their seventh consecutive match after posting a 3-1 victory over North Allegheny (Pa.) at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
With the win, Lady Explorers improved to 8-2 overall.
Russell tied the match at one with 11 minutes, 14 seconds left in the first half and gave Hudson the lead for good when she found the cage a little more than two minutes later.
She added goal No. 3 less than 10 minutes into the second half.
Yes, Russell took her coach's words very seriously during the match.
"It motivated me to work harder," Russell said.
Prior to Russell's scoring spree, the Tigers (8-4) struck first when Bree Monnin scored on a Kailey Vogl assist with 13 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
But Hudson came right back.
Kiley Merrill had the assist on Russell's first goal and Ashley McLelland played the ball to Russell on the second goal. Russell's last goal was unassisted.
"Maria was super aggressive in the circle and she wasn't afraid to let it rip," Haney said.
There was one down note during the Lady Explorers' win. Monnin's tally was the first goal Hudson gave up since a 3-0 loss to Thomas Worthington Aug. 31 in Columbus. The Lady Explorers did not allow a single goal in their next six matches.
When North Allegheny took the early lead, Hudson didn't flinch. And that kind of attitude was a pleasant sight for Haney.
"What was most impressive for me is that they kept fighting and had that competitive attitude," Haney said. "In the past, the girls had a tendency to hang their heads when they got down. You have to have that competitive mindset where you say to yourself, 'I'm not going to let them in my end.' It feeds energy and it's contagious to the other players."
The Lady Explorers had an 8-5 advantage in shots on goal. North Allegheny had a 5-3 edge in penalty corners.
Tigers' goalkeeper Maria Mendenhall, who entered the game in the second half, finished with four saves. Hudson keeper Jackie Kisthardt had two saves.
Since a 2-0 win over nemesis Hathaway Brown Sept. 3, the Lady Explorers rolled against their next five opponents. North Allegheny, on the other hand, gave Hudson all it could handle.
"It's great competition," Haney said. "North Allegheny is always intense and well-disciplined and very skilled. It's good preparation for the tournament."
"This win gives us confidence for the second season," she said.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to play two matches Oct. 5.
They are set to play Ottawa Hills at 1:30 p.m. at Memorial Stadium and Maumee Valley Country Day at 3:45 p.m. at Scott Malson Field.
Hudson's junior varsity team is scheduled to play Ottawa Hills at 1:30 p.m. at Malson Field.
The contests are expected to include fundraising for cancer research. The girls are planning to wear pink jerseys and socks.
Donations are accepted at www.firstgiving.com with the team name of Hudson Explorers Field Hockey. Donations will go to the American Foundation for Cancer Research. For more information, email team manager Karen Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.