by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
It was supposed to be a coronation of some sort.
The Solon boys lacrosse team had won 16 of its first 17 games, including a nail-biter against Hudson earlier in the season.
The Explorers, on the other hand, had lost their mojo.
They saw their dreams of a state championship upended by Cleveland St. Ignatius in a 2013 regional title game and then promptly lost to both the Comets and the Wildcats during regular-season play in 2014.
Yes, it was easy to think that Hudson's sovereignty over Northeast Ohio was officially over.
The Explorers reached the Ohio High School Lacrosse Association Division I state semifinals for the eighth time in 10 years after posting a convincing 15-9 victory over Solon May 31 at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy's Royals Stadium in Cuyahoga Falls.
With the win, Hudson earned a date with Upper Arlington, which posted a lopsided 15-2 victory over North Canton Hoover to advance, June 4 at Denison University in Granville. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
A little more than 24 hours after April Fool's Day, the Explorers scored a total of seven goals in their first two games.
Hudson (15-4) seemed to right the ship with three consecutive victories before losing a 15-14 decision to the Comets at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
And what have the Explorers done since then?
They have won 12 of their last 13 matches and are currently on an eight-match winning streak.
It's safe to say Hudson's reign of supremacy in Northeast Ohio is alive and well.
"When these kids were 3-3 earlier in the season, I think somebody thought maybe the streak was over," 19th-year Explorers head coach David Blue said. "Maybe everyone else has caught up to us.
"As much as I think teams have gotten better over the years, we needed to put it together. It's a credit to the kids. They could have given up. Instead, they've gone 12-1 since then."
While Hudson came in as the second seed against top-seeded Solon, there was no doubt which team was better on this day.
The Explorers, thanks to the quick hands of sophomore midfielder Chris Motter, won 23 of 28 face-offs and had a 53-27 advantage in ground balls. They outshot the Comets by a 55-37 margin.
"We pretty much controlled the game in most of the statistical categories," Blue said.
"We pressured them when we needed to pressure them. In the first half, Solon's kids were really dragging.
"We were already running and gunning. It was hot and on the turf, it's even hotter. We definitely had them on the ropes early."
Hudson led 4-3 after the first quarter and then took control in the next 24 minutes.
The Explorers outscored the Comets 7-2 in the middle two quarters.
While Blue was certainly pleased with his team's effort, he still believes his talented squad is capable of more.
"We played a very good game," Blue said. "We hit a number of posts and we still had way too many turnovers than we should have. When we did shoot the ball, we shot the ball hard. We just kept putting pressure on the Solon goalie. We never really gave them [the Comets] a chance to breathe."
Senior attack Bo Lori led Hudson with six goals and Explorers' junior goalkeeper Jake Krone made 16 saves.
Junior attack Sam Gregory added two goals and senior midfielder Mick Mougey had one goal and four assists.
Junior attack Michael Charlton and junior midfielder Reid Robinson each had one goal and one assist and senior midfielder Brent Zubal, junior midfielders Kyle Ator and Grant Elffers and junior attack Gabe Vehar each had one assist.
Senior attack Zach Nye added one assist and Motter finished with a game-high 21 ground balls.
Lori, Krone, Motter and junior defenseman Trent Maendler earned game balls for their efforts.
Such a display of offensive firepower and punishing defense was something Blue had envisioned when his team took the field a little more than two months ago.
Let's just say Hudson has come a long, long way since losing a 9-2 decision to Olentangy Liberty in its 2014 debut.
"When we lost that game, we were thinking, 'Oh my goodness; what just took place?'" Blue said. "I don't think a lot of people believed in us then.
"We really enjoyed the game [May 31]. It was one of those games where we knew right away that this was something special."