During the 2000s, the Hudson boys lacrosse team often had its promising seasons come to an end to a certain powerhouse in the Columbus area.

That would be Worthington Kilbourne.

In recent years, the Explorers have been victimized by another buzzsaw that is much closer to home.

This time, Cleveland St. Ignatius has played the role of villain.

Unfortunately for Hudson, those villains got the best of the Explorers last spring.

The Wildcats cruised to a 12-4 victory over the Explorers in a 2017 Region 2 semifinal game.

For Hudson, which has made the state semifinals 10 times since the start of the millennium, it was a stunning early exit from postseason play.

It’s a safe bet the Explorers, who finished 14-6 in 2017, could face St. Ignatius in another significant postseason contest down the road.

"Over the past few seasons, this Northeast Ohio rivalry has been one of the best games of the season," said 23rd-year head coach David Blue, who is 307-111 at Hudson. "This year’s battle will be no different as the two teams will slug it out for area supremacy."

The Explorers are scheduled to pay the Wildcats a visit in a regular-season showdown April 25.

Hudson lost 11 seniors to graduation last season. They are midfielders Nick Advent, Cole Miller, Matt Restifo and Will Orazen; defensemen Brandon Nelson, Sean Weigel, Max Kleiman and Enrique Rodriguez; attacks Max Cole and Chandler Kotseos; and goalie Stroud Corr.

The top returning attackman is senior Anthony Rightnour.

"Anthony is one of the team leaders and he has the ability to take over games with his finishing skills," Blue said. "He is also a talented playmaker who can set up his teammates for success in a variety of ways."

Other attackmen include seniors Pat Burdett and Joe Graf; juniors Will Hannon and Mason Prisk; and sophomore Jay Valko.

"Pat is a big crease attackman who has solid stickwork and finishing skills," Blue said. "He can take a hit and still get his shot off.

"Joe is a natural lefty who has developed his feeding ability and outside shooting. His quickness and ability to change direction adds to his skill set.

"Will is new to the Hudson program, but he has solid goal-scoring abilities. Mason is a versatile attackman who can finish or create big plays. He is very adept at finding small seams in the defense to get off his shot.

"Jay will be seeing time at attack because of his quickness and playmaking ability."

The midfield is led by standout senior Angelo Donatelli.

"Angelo is one of the hardest workers on the team," Blue said. "He has the ability to play both offensive and defensive midfield, but he also excels in several special teams’ areas as well."

Two other returning midfielders are juniors Blake Lori and Brady Ludewig.

"Blake’s stickwork and agility make him a very slick midfielder," Blue said. "He also is big in getting ground balls and playing defense, too.

"Brady plays a very physical style of midfield by using his size and big outside shot to challenge the defense. He is also one of the face-off specialists."

The rest of the midfielders include seniors Alex Beegle, Adam Dunne and Sam Regalo; juniors Ryan Graham and Merrick Widdoes; and sophomore Dane DiGeronimo.

"Alex will be playing mostly as a defensive midfielder and joining the face-off groups as well," Blue said.

"Adam has paid his dues by playing attack and offensive middie over the past two seasons. This year, he is being counted on to produce points as an offensive midfielder.

"Sam will be making his first marks on the varsity team by playing defensive midfield. Ryan has great size and speed and runs the field well as a defensive transition midfielder.

"Merrick’s versatility at midfield and occasionally attack make him one of the team’s feared offensive weapons. He also excels in the clearing game as well.

"Dane is another younger player who has good versatility as a defensive midfielder and face-off specialist."

Senior Danny Saxon suffered a knee injury and was unable to play against the Wildcats during the 2017 postseason.

To say he was sorely missed would be an understatement.

That’s because Saxon was an All-American defenseman last year.

"Danny is back and ready to wreck opposing offenses with his aggressive and fast style of play," Blue said. "Look for him to excel again in the transition game and on ground balls."

Saxon’s running mates on defense are seniors Colin Dickens, Matt Rudy and Charlie Murphy; juniors Stephen Russell, Nathan Slater and Matt Wysmierski; and sophomore Jack Burdett.

"Colin has improved greatly over the past few seasons and his steady play has been noticed," Blue said. "Nothing flashy, but he gets the job done and is relentless covering his man.

"Matt is in shape, playing fast and is extremely aggressive with his stick. His leadership and physical play are traits that the coaching staff has been looking for in all of the players.

"Charlie has worked his way back from injury and will look to fill out an important role as a rangy long-stick midfield who can find the back of the net, too.

"Stephen’s stickwork and ability to get ground balls is amazing. He also works well in traffic with the ball after he has taken it away from his man.

"Nathan is one of the bigger players you will find playing lacrosse. His ability to control his stick is amazing. He will be a force on the crease and a punishing enforcer for the defense.

"Matt missed all of last year with an injury and is excited about getting back on the field. His physical play and aggressive style is just what the defense needs.

"Jack’s ability to cover ground at either close defense or long-stick midfield makes him one of the team’s better defensive players. He has a unique ability to create offense in the transition game, too."

Senior Matt Withem played several games between the pipes last season. Also expected to see time at the goalie position is senior Alex Nawn.

"Matt will be counted on to anchor the defense and be the leader of the defense," Blue said. "Alex has been a versatile goalie for the team for the past three seasons. This year, his enthusiastic play in between the pipes will be appreciated greatly by his teammates."

Blue’s assistants include Todd Sidle, who enters his 15th year with the team, Hudson graduates Logan Parsons, Tyler Zickel and Ben Wiese and Hudson resident Charlie Joyce.

The Explorers are scheduled to make their 2018 debut against Mason in the Ohio Machine Classic March 17 at Fortress Obetz in Columbus. Play is set to begin at noon.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.