by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- Any coach can appreciate a player who is humble.
Hudson first-year head field hockey coach Laurie Wilkins is no exception. But in the Lady Explorers' case, Wilkins believes humility can lead to a lack of confidence.
"They're good, but they don't realize it yet," Wilkins said. "I think we're going to shock a lot of teams."
Hudson's backyard rivals certainly won't argue with her.
The Lady Explorers made a stellar 2014 debut with a 2-0 victory over Western Reserve Academy Aug. 21 at WRA Stadium.
With the loss, the Pioneers dropped to 1-1.
While both teams had a number of chances inside the circle, Hudson's offense controlled the ball and put pressure on Reserve's defense for much of the game.
And the Hudson-WRA rivalry is still very much a reality.
Despite some early-season jitters, both teams showed the kind of passion and enthusiasm that is normally seen between two neighboring schools.
"It's still a game to be proud of," Pioneers head coach Haley Preston said. "Our girls were fired up to play Hudson, which is good. It heightens the level of competition."
Although the Lady Explorers had the ball most of the time, Reserve nearly struck first when Abby Wyman's shot hit the post.
With 11 minutes, 48 seconds left in the first half, Hudson used a time-out to get things in order.
"We got out of playing our style, which is a possession game," Wilkins said. "We were a little frantic."
The brief discussion between the coach and the players paid huge dividends for the Lady Explorers.
After a barrage of shots inside the circle, Hudson finally got on the scoreboard when Ashley McLelland found the goal with 10:06 remaining in the half.
At that point, WRA's defense had to dig deep as the Lady Explorers' assault continued for the next 10 minutes.
"I thought it was pretty evenly matched early in the game," Preston said. "Our biggest opponent is we have a small group in terms of numbers. It's hard for us to keep up with the bigger teams."
The Pioneers seemed rejuvenated after halftime as the home team had a number of chances to score in the first several minutes.
But Hudson survived that early onslaught and its playmakers had possession of the ball for much of the second half.
The Lady Explorers put it away when Eliza Green scored off a McLelland assist. Green was able to sneak a shot past Reserve goalkeeper Lexi Hubble after getting a nice feed from McLelland on the right side.
WRA made a charge in the final minute of the game, but Hudson's defense answered the challenge.
Both goalkeepers showed acrobatic feet throughout the game.
Lady Explorers' keeper Jackie Kisthardt finished with eight saves and Hubble made seven stops. Despite being small in numbers, the Pioneers certainly don't expect to be pushovers. Preston believes her team can win a number of games.
"There's a lot of season left," she said. "The girls haven't reached their potential yet."
As for Wilkins, she couldn't be happier with the start. Now she hopes her players can find a little bit of a swagger going forward.
"It feels good," Wilkins said. "I want to instill confidence in them."
Host Reserve made a smashing 2014 debut with a commanding 8-0 victory over Cleveland Heights Aug. 19.
Junior Cristen Barnett had four goals and junior Cecily White added two goals.
Also scoring one goal apiece were senior captain Darby Johnson and freshman Tia Forsyth. Annamarie Bobinsky and Paige Warner each had an assist.
Hudson is scheduled to visit Cleveland Heights Aug. 26 at 4:30 p.m.
WRA is set to visit Shaker Heights Laurel Aug. 25 at the Laurel School Butler Campus in Russell. Play is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
WRA is set to entertain Stow-Munroe Falls Aug. 26 at 4:30 p.m.