by Frank Aceto

Associate Sports Editor

They lost some key parts, including a former state qualifier.

But the 2014 Lady Explorers may have a bit of a chip on their shoulders.

And Hudson 12th-year head coach Tim Morgan loves every second of it.

"That's the exciting part," he said. "We're a young team that wants to prove itself."

The Lady Explorers, who may have surprised some people after winning the Northeast Ohio Conference Valley Division Tournament despite finishing third during the regular season, lost four key players.

The biggest loss was Kati Mdzinarishvili, a 2012 Division I state qualifier.

She played No. 1 singles for the last three years,.

Also graduating were Connie Chen, a 2013 district qualifier, Vanessa Kreiss and Sujude Dalieh.

Hudson, which lost a 5-0 decision to Walsh Jesuit and earned a 5-0 win over Valley Division rival Medina Aug. 11 at Springside Racquet & Fitness Club in Akron, finished 9-13 overall in 2013 against a very difficult schedule.

The schedule probably won't do the Lady Explorers any favor this year either.

"Our won/loss record may not show our strength from a conference standpoint," Morgan said. "The competition will prepare us to succeed later in the year."

It worked last year as Mdzinarishvili and the doubles team of Chen and Grace Graham reached district play.

Graham, a sophomore, isn't expected to play much doubles any more.

That's because she played first singles in her first two matches.

Another sophomore, Isabelle Mawby, played second singles in her first two matches.

"Grace and Isabelle will most likely be our one-two throughout the year," Morgan said.

As of press time, third singles wasn't and may not be set in stone for quite awhile.

That's just fine with Morgan.

"We will do third singles by committee," he said. "We have some girls who give us a strong chance at third singles."

Battling for the third singles' spot will be seniors Jielu Wang and Jensen Ferris and junior Andra Achim.

Competing for doubles' play will be senior Lucy Sachtleden; juniors Cassidy Lewis, Lindsey Tanner and Lauren Neher; and sophomores Istabraq Dalieh and Hannah Forrestal.

"Any of the girls will get some varsity playing time," Morgan said. "We'll try various combinations for doubles."

Longtime coach and Ohio Tennis Coaches' Association Hall of Famer Janice Kampf is Morgan's assistant.

She also is the head coach of the junior varsity team.

Hudson might not be the favorite to win its sixth consecutive Valley Division title.

One way or another, the team that stands on top of the mountain will have to go through the Lady Explorers.

"Mayfield will be strong and Solon will be strong," Morgan said. "Those two teams, along with Hudson, can compete for the title."

In the loss to the Warriors, Hudson resident Molly Sandberg earned a 6-0, 6-3 win at first singles for Walsh.

The Lady Explorers had a much easier time against the Bees.

Graham (7-5, 6-0), Mawby (6-2, 6-1) and Wang (4-6, 6-4, 7-6) triumphed in singles' play. Lewis and Tanner (6-1, 6-4) and Achim and Istabraq Dalieh (6-1, 7-5) also won.

Hudson also has another goal in mind.

The players having been taking donations to upgrade the tennis facilities at Hudson High School.

"The Hudson Tennis Project Committee, with the help of the kids, is trying to make phase one a reality," Morgan said. "Phase one is to upgrade, refurbish and rejuvenate the present six outdoor courts.

"Phase two is to add four brand new courts in the pavilion for shade. The kids will be collecting donations at the home football games. Our goal is $300,000 and we've raised about $200,000 so far."

The Lady Explorers were scheduled to visit New Albany and Dublin Coffman Aug. 12. Results were not available at press time.

Hudson is set to visit Twinsburg for an NOC showdown Aug. 14 at 2 p.m.

The Lady Explorers are scheduled to compete at the Rocky River Invitational Aug. 15 at Tri-City Park. Play is set to begin at 8 a.m.


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