by Michael Leonard
The 2013 season was an excellent one for the Hudson girls soccer team.
The Explorers went 14-3-2, including 3-1-1 in the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division, which was good for a second-place tie. Hudson scored its first victory against Strongsville since sixth-year head coach Costa Kalorides (63-19-13) took over the program. Medina won the Valley Division title.
"That's the highest finish in the NOC we had since I got here," he said. "That's probably one of the best regular seasons we've had.
"To finally beat Strongsville was a great accomplishment. I think we've started to show we can compete with anyone."
In the postseason, Hudson reached the district final before bowing out 2-0 to eventual Division I state champion Walsh Jesuit.
This year, several Explorers return to the field.
Hudson lost four players to graduation, including Kate Waters, who is playing for the University of Maryland, and Margo Camp.
Kalorides notes most of these losses will affect the offensive side of the ball.
"To lose 28 goals and 30 assists, that's a big hit," he said. "The defense is pretty much intact, though."
Tactically, Kalorides' team remained committed to possession-style soccer. While the Explorers' base formation is a 4-4-2, Hudson will continue to shift its formation based on need.
Entering its final year in the NOC, the Explorers still face a loaded Valley Division, which includes Medina, Strongsville, Solon, Mentor and North Royalton.
Kalorides said, along with the Valley Division games, his team's schedule remains rigorous.
"I think we go into every season the same way," he said. "We play a very competitive schedule, which helps us get ready for postseason. We want to be relatively competitive in our division. Not only is our district loaded, but the Valley Division is one of the best in the state."
Kalorides' staff this fall will include assistant coaches Tony Davis, Cassandra Gouge and Allan Marshall.
Junior Sarah L'Hommedieu will enter her third year as Hudson's starting goalkeeper and Kalorides expects she'll play nearly every minute this season. One of the best in Northeast Ohio, L'Hommedieu has already committed to play soccer at Indiana University.
"She's still entrenched there for a reason," Kalorides said. "She works hard in the offseason. She's always working on her technical skills."
Hudson returns both of its starting central defenders as senior Taylor Koscho and junior Maddy Waters are back.
At the outside back positions, junior Allie Dunn looks to have the nod at right defense, while sophomores Annie Kennedy and Rachel Slater are competing for time at left back.
The young players in the outside back positions should allow junior Victoria Breeden to slide into the holding midfield role for Hudson.
"She's just kind of a good holding/defensive midfielder," Kalorides said. "She knows where the ball is and has a good handle on it."
The Lady Explorers have a pair of excellent attacking midfield players in senior Alyssa Pamer and sophomore Kim Ito, though Kalorides notes Ito may slide into a forward position, depending on the opposition.
"[Ito is] somebody that we're looking to have a big year from," Kalorides said. " Sometimes, she gets lost in the shadow of our junior class, but she's a special player.
"Alyssa is versatile enough to play anywhere we need her. We're looking for her to anchor in the middle of the field."
On the outside of midfield, speedy junior Erin Torrence could be due for a big year.
"I think she has gotten a lot sharper," Kalorides said. "The speed has always been there. I think her technical game has improved."
Claire McIssac will get the nod at the other outside midfield slot after seeing spot time on varsity last year.
Up top, Kalorides said he has a very good target forward in sophomore Reyna McLean, who has a chance for a big season.
"She's a big player and has a lot of strength," Kalorides said.
Hudson will carry only 16 varsity players this fall and already is dealing with injuries.
After dealing with injuries the last two seasons, junior Amanda Gamble will provide depth, while junior Sara Kossler will see time in the midfield. Junior Molly Killeen is coming off an injury, while senior Sarah Dieter also will see time.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to open the 2014 season at Shaker Heights Aug. 18 at 6:15 p.m. The home opener is set for Aug. 21 against GlenOak. Game time is scheduled for at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.