by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson --They may meet again for much higher stakes down the road.
And their most recent contest was simply a regular-season contest with not much stock in it.
Nonetheless, the matchup between the Lady Explorers and the Lady Cardinals had every bit of a feel of a state championship showdown.
This time, the Hudson field hockey team had the final say.
The host Lady Explorers earned a tense 1-0 victory over reigning state champion Thomas Worthington Oct. 8 at Scott Malson Field.
With the win, Hudson improved to 9-3-1. The Lady Cardinals, who scored all of their goals in the second half en route to a 3-0 win over the Lady Explorers in last year's state title match, dropped to 10-3.
"We were 30 minutes away from winning the state championship last year," Hudson head coach Laurie Wilkins said. "We felt like we had some unfinished business. They came to play. All it takes is one in a game like this."
That "one" took place nearly halfway into the second half.
The Lady Explorers scored the lone goal with 16 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the match.
Madison Valko had a 25-yard hit go off the pad of Thomas Worthington goalie Isabelle Perese. Sarah Keller was in the right place at the right time and was able to put the ball in the goal on a rebound.
Hudson then got a critical defensive save by Sofia Hess, who blocked a hard shot by Lady Cardinals' standout Sarah Charley with her shoulder in front of the Lady Explorers' goal at the 14:30 mark.
"Sofia is, hands down, our best trapper on the team," Wilkins said. "The defense really stepped up."
Both teams got deep in each other's territories on a number of occasions, but other than Keller's goal, both teams' defenses stopped anything and everything that was thrown at them.
"I have a lot of respect for them [the Lady Cardinals]," Wilkins said. "They are a well-coached team. We knew it was going to be a battle."
Both goalies had busy days against an onslaught of shots.
Hudson goalie Kelsey Lowman made 16 saves and Perese had 15 saves. Many of those stops were acrobatic saves on shots from point-blank range.
Thomas Worthington had a 10-8 edge in penalty corners, including one that was denied by the Lady Explorers with approximately two minutes left in the match. Both teams finished with 16 shots on goal.
It was quite a performance by Hudson, which let a couple of critical Northeast Ohio Field Hockey League matches get away in recent weeks, according to Wilkins.
The Lady Explorers earned a 3-3 draw with Rocky River Magnificat Oct. 4 and also suffered a 3-2 overtime loss to Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown last month.
"We felt like we could have and should have won both of those games," Wilkins said. "I'm really excited about the rest of the season. We're playing more as a team. They're more concerned about the name on the front of their jerseys rather than on the back."
Hudson was scheduled to host NEOFHL rival Shaker Heights Oct. 10 at Malson Field. Results were not available at press time.
The Lady Explorers are set to visit NEOFHL foe Ottawa Hills in their regular-season finale Oct. 14 at 5 p.m.
Hudson got the second seed in the Gates Mills district tournament. Magnificat received the top seed and Shaker Heights and Hathaway Brown earned the third and fourth seeds, respectively.
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to host Shaker Heights Laurel in their postseason opener Oct. 17 at 5 p.m.