by Michael Leonard
Solon -- Hudson head boys soccer coach Kelsey Resnick knew his team still had a chance to claim at least a share of the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division heading into its final division game.
However, the first order of business was to get past Solon Oct. 8 at Stewart Field -- a place that has not always been kind to the Explorers.
This time, however, Hudson weathered a late onslaught from Solon to score a 1-0 victory over the Comets.
The Explorers improved to 9-4-2 overall and 4-1 in the Valley Division, assuring themselves a second-place finish in the division. Mentor won the Valley Division title with a 4-0-1 record after posting a 3-2 win over Strongsville. The Comets dropped to 7-3-5 and 2-2-1 in the division.
Hudson was set to host Brecksville-Broadview Heights in its regular season finale Oct. 12. Results weren't available at press time.
Resnick credited his defense for shutting down Solon's scoring chances. Although the Comets had a sizable edge in possession, it was the Explorers that finished with a 5-4 edge in shots on goal.
"We've been playing around with our defensive setup," Resnick said. "We knew we wanted to play a flat back. When you play a high line to go after possession, you leave yourself open for the ball over the top.
"We've been playing a deeper line. We're undefeated in the last five games and haven't given up a goal in those games."
While Solon was able to press forward often, its shots were blocked or it was driven to the sidelines by Hudson's defense.
Resnick praised junior Michael Charlton for his excellent defensive work as well as goalkeeper Brendan O'Neil, who started while wearing the usual jersey of starting senior keeper Charlie Sockol.
"[The referees] said Brendan's kit was too close to our colors, so he had to wear Charlie's kit," Resnick said. "[Sockol] is still working back after that Twinsburg game. We want to have two goalkeepers for the playoffs."
O'Neil finished with four saves, but did his best work snagging dangerous crossing balls in the box.
After playing the Comets to a stalemate in the first half, Hudson's moment came in the 51st minute.
Rushing forward, Explorers' midfielder Jack Sullivan smashed a ball on net.
The shot beat Solon goalie Will Meyer, but was headed off the line by Solon's defense.
The rebound came to Cody VanDoninck just inside the box and VanDoninck smashed a low shot through traffic and into the corner of the net.
"We've told the guys if you get a half-yard of space in the box to put it on net," Resnick said. "He did just that."
To say the goal woke up the Comets' offense was an understatement. Solon pushed everything it had into the attack in the final 30 minutes, but Hudson's defense stood firm.
Solon finished with only one shot on goal in the second half.
"It's funny how games tend to open up after plays like that," Resnick said. "You never want to play from a goal down."
As the third seed in the Division I Kent district, Hudson is scheduled to open its postseason play by hosting a Division I sectional final game Oct. 19 at Hudson Memorial Stadium. Game time is set for 7 p.m. The Explorers will play the winner of the Nordonia-Walsh Jesuit game.