by Frank AcetO
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- It was just a tune-up, but it obviously was a lot more than that.
Riding a 10-game winning streak as the postseason draws near, the Hudson field hockey team took the field against backyard rival Western Reserve Academy.
Since Reserve is not a member of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, it would be easy to think such a contest didn't have much signifance.
In front of a number of fans at Scott Malson Field, the Lady Explorers made it 11 in a row.
They earned a convincing 4-1 victory over the Lady Pioneers Oct. 12.
With the win, Hudson concluded the regular season with a 12-2 record. WRA, led by first-year head coach Haley Preston, finished 10-6-1.
Last year, the Lady Pioneers had bragging rights after posting a 1-0 win over Hudson. It was Reserve's first win over the Lady Explorers since 2006.
This time, Hudson, despite a bit of a sluggish start, took control about 10 minutes into the game and never looked back.
"It's always a fun game," said 15th-year Lady Explorers head coach Jen Haney, who recently was named the Ohio High School Athletic Association Field Hockey Coach of the Year. "It's usually an emotional, competitive game. A lot of girls are close friends with the girls from Reserve. They enjoy the competition."
Prior to the game, Hudson honored seniors Kiley Merrill (midfielder/forward), Maria Russell (midfielder), Erin Hoover (midfielder/forward), Elizabeth Bashian (back), Jackie Ulmer (back) and Krista Jones (midfielder/forward/back), who is out for the season with a foot injury.
"Krista broke her foot during the third week of the season," Haney said. "She was a starter last year and she probably would be starting this year. She has been very supportive."
Other seniors also were recognized before the game. Oddly enough, those seniors wore green and white.
WRA seniors Anne Carter, McKenna Polak, Faith DeBolt and Taylor Chlebina also were honored.
"We had great senior leadership," Preston said. "They helped me get my feet underneath me. It was a lot easier for me because of them."
Three of the Lady Explorers' seniors played critical roles in the win.
Russell scored twice for Hudson and Hoover and junior forward Meredith Pinkerton each scored once for the Lady Explorers. Merrill had two assists for Hudson.
Russell got the Lady Explorers on the board when she tipped in Merrill's shot with 17 minutes, 1 second remaining in the first half.
Pinkerton scored from point-blank range less than two minutes later and Russell made it 3-0 when she scored off a Merrill assist with 6:12 left in the half.
Hoover added her second goal nearly midway into the second half to increase Hudson's lead to 4-0.
Sophomore Kat Schorling scored the lone goal for the Lady Pioneers with 9:06 remaining in the game.
"We started off a little slowly," Haney said. "It was Senior Day and a there were lot of emotions. I called time-out after the first eight minutes because we needed to do the simple things. Our game is to work together with small passes and let the ball do the work."
Lady Explorers' junior goalkeeper Jackie Kisthardt finished with four saves and DeBolt made 16 stops for Reserve.
"It was a tough way to end, but it would be hard for me to be disappointed with 10-6-1," Preston said.
Host WRA posted a 7-0 win over Cleveland Heights Oct. 10.
Carter and junior Abby Wyman each had two goals for the Lady Pioneers and DeBolt, Chlebina and sophomore Cristen Barnett each scored once.
Carter, Schorling and sophomore Gracie Morgan each had one assist and Reserve goalkeeper Lexi Hubble finished with three saves.
Hudson is the No. 2 seed in the Gates Mills Division I district tournament.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to host the Stow-Munroe Falls-Shaker Heights Laurel winner in a district title game Oct. 18 at Malson Field. Game time is set for 4 p.m.