by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Hudson -- Regardless of the outcome, the Hudson field hockey team was not going to repeat as Northeast Ohio Field Hockey League champion.
And regardless of the outcome, the Lady Explorers had already locked up the No. 2 seed in the Gates Mills district tournament.
So, losing the season finale wasn't the end of the world for Hudson head coach Laurie Wilkins and her players.
They just want to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Host Hudson fell to 9-4-1 on the season after losing to Shaker Heights 2-1 Oct. 10 at Scott Malson Field.
With the loss, the Lady Explorers finished third in the Northeast Ohio Field Hockey League. Hudson was 7-2-1 with one more NEOFHL match to play as of press time.
The Lady Red Raiders (10-4, 10-1) finished second. Magnificat, which beat Shaker Heights and tied Hudson 3-3 earlier in the season, finished 10-0-1 in the league.
The Lady Red Raiders controlled possession much of the way and had a 17-8 advantage in shots on goal and an 11-5 edge in penalty corners.
But Wilkins made more substitutions than normal to rest her key players' legs.
"We played everyone," she said. "We had a hard game [Oct. 8], so we played some girls who haven't seen the field as much.
"Our game plan was to play some really strong hockey. We had some moments and bursts. We just have to learn to communicate better."
Although Shaker Heights seemed to have a second home in the Lady Explorers' territory, Hudson struck first.
The Lady Explorers took a 1-0 lead when senior Sarah Keller scored with 25 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
It stayed that way until the final 16 minutes of the match.
That's when Lady Red Raiders' freshman forward Lora Clarke took over.
She tied the match with 15:42 left and then scored the game-winning goal on a cross by senior forward Haley Brady with 52.1 seconds remaining.
"I have to give it to Shaker," Wilkins said. "They came out with fight. They had some speed up top and we let them get behind us in some dangerous situations."
Hudson junior goalie Kelsey Lowman made 14 saves and Lady Red Raiders' senior goalie Kandyce Graham finished with six saves.
"Our goalie had a phenomenal game," Wilkins said. "She saw the angles and made some amazing clears."
While Wilkins wasn't too upset about the loss, she does want her players to have a sense of urgency once the postseason begins.
"We just have to play like we know how to play," Wilkins said. "We learned a valuable lesson. We need to play for 60 minutes. We can't let up for a second."
The Lady Explorers were scheduled to conclude their regular season against NEOFHL rival Ottawa Hills Oct. 14 in Toledo. Results were not available at press time.
Hudson earned an opening-round bye in the Gates Mills district tournament. The Lady Explorers are scheduled to play the Gates Mills Hawken-Shaker Heights Laurel winner in a second-round contest Oct. 19 at Scott Malson Field. Play is set to begin at 4:30 p.m.