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Girls lax reaches Region 2 final

Hudson wins 15th straight match

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: May 28, 2017 12:00 AM
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HUDSON -- When they took the field May 23, the members of the Hudson girls lacrosse team had gone 39 days without suffering a loss.

When did the Lady Explorers' last setback take place?

That would be April 13 when they were defeated to Massillon Jackson 15-5.

Since that day, Hudson had won 15 matches in a row and reached the Division I, Region 2 title match for the second consecutive year.

And which team was in the Lady Explorers' way in their most important contest to date?

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That would be the Lady Polar Bears.

Second-seeded Hudson earned a rematch with Jackson after posting an 18-8 victory over third-seeded Cleveland Heights.

The Region 2 semifinal contest took place May 23 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.

With the win, the Lady Explorers (16-2) were set to play top-seeded Jackson May 27 at a neutral site. Results were not available at press time.

The Lady Polar Bears, the 2016 Division I state runners-up, advanced with a 13-2 victory over Uniontown Green.

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Win or lose, Hudson has proven to be one of the best teams in the state throughout the season.

The Lady Explorers did nothing to change their status among the elite against the Lady Tigers, who Hudson defeated 12-11 earlier in the season.

The latest matchup between these two teams proved to be considerably less nerve-racking.

"Our defense has gotten a lot better, a lot stronger and a lot more confident," Hudson head coach Persy Sample said. "The girls know we have a goal and that's to get to the state match."

The Lady Explorers pulled away in the second half, but their task of eliminating a pesky Cleveland Heights' squad was a bit tricky to pull off.

The Lady Tigers dominated the draws early and got a couple of crucial goals late in the first half to stay within striking distance.

Hudson looked like it was in control, but Cleveland Heights was down just 7-5 at halftime.

The Lady Explorers had two free-position opportunities go wide and another shot go just over the goal in the final minute of the half.

"No. 28 [Jayden Weaver, who won a total of nine draws] is a very good player," Sample said. "She is super aggressive and she just bulls through people. The draws are the most important thing. If you don't have the ball, you can't score."

Hudson, which lost 9 of 13 draws in the first 25 minutes, cleaned up its draw dilemma after halftime. As a result, the Lady Explorers scored lots of goals.

In the first 11-plus minutes of the second half, the Lady Explorers showed off their explosive offense with five unanswered goals.

The catalysts for Hudson were Corinne Hunt and Ari Bankovich, who seemed to find each other at the right times and they also seemed to know exactly where the other was at all times.

Bankovich found Hunt cutting to the goal right on cue and then Hunt located Bankovich while she was ready to shoot to overwhelm the Lady Tigers' defense.

Bankovich had four goals and two assists and Hunt finished with two goals and four assists.

Bankovich and Hunt factored in four of the Lady Explorers' first five goals after halftime.

"Ari and Corinne have been playing together for seven or eight years," Sample said. "Both of them have huge strengths. Corinne is dominant rolling off the crease and Ari is a great passer.

"When Corinne and Ari work together, they can be dominant. We practice being behind the goal. The person behind the goal is the quarterback of the offense."

Elizabeth Hinkle continued her stellar season with a match-high five goals to lead Hudson.

Sarah Keller and Kendall Paltani each contributed three goals and one assist and Maddie Valko had one goal for the Lady Explorers. Piper Trattner added an assist.

Kristin Potts started in goal for Hudson and finished with four saves. She was replaced early in the second half by Addie Gojdics, who made five stops of her own.

The Lady Explorers won 9 of 12 draws after halftime. Elle Marquez won a total of 13 draws and had two takeaways for Hudson.

Macy Trattner had three takeaways and Paltani scooped up seven ground balls.

Soli Collins had three goals to lead Cleveland Heights and Jordan Weaver finished with two goals.

Senna Perelman and Lauren Iott each had one goal and one assist and Ryan Penson scored once.

Lady Tigers' goalie Jayden Ward finished with 10 saves.

Hudson has been thinking about getting to this point since the season began. Sample praised her team for performing with a sense of urgency.

"Our girls knew where they wanted to be and that's the regional final," she said. "They picked up the pace and did their jobs and capitalized. They didn't want their season to end."

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