The Hudson girls soccer team has avoided what was once a regular destination in the last couple of years.
That would be the district title game.
The Lady Explorers finished 11-4-3 in 2017 after losing to Twinsburg 1-0 in a Kent Division I district semifinal contest.
Hudson, which lost in a sectional title game the previous year, also finished second in the Suburban League National Conference.
The Lady Explorers posted a 4-1-2 record in conference play last fall. Wadsworth is the reigning conference champion.
Prior to the last two years, Hudson had been a regular attendee at the Kent district final. The Lady Explorers won the state title in 2000 and were the district runners-up in 2001.
Third-year Hudson head coach Chris Gentille, who is 20-9-5 and 134-66-25 during his 17 years as head coach, certainly hopes his team can continue its winning ways and advance at least one round further in the postseason.
He also knows his team lacks experience.
"We add a lot of new players to varsity, including a lot of younger players," he said. "We will have to rely on them a lot this season and get them playing at a level we want to be at."
Will all of this youth and inexperience be a major problem for Gentille?
Not at all.
"The lack of varsity game time for the new players could be an issue, but I don't see it," Gentille said. "This is a really good group of girls and a fun group to coach already."
The first-year players will be needed to contribute right away.
That’s because the Lady Explorers lost eight seniors to graduation. They are defenders Molly Charpentier, Cali Stuursma, Ang Giaimo and Malloree Weber; midfielders Olivia Adkins and Elena Vuksta; and forwards Grace Killeen and Lucy Marshall.
However, Hudson will have nine varsity players back in the mix.
Leading the way are seniors Jordan Manley (forward), Anna Campanella (midfielder), Meredith Leichty (defender), Lexi Muccino (forward) and Kate Saxer (defender).
Returning juniors include midfielders Lauren Heidler and Kierstin Havens; defender Abby Kern; and goalkeeper Lily Morgan.
"I do believe our keeper play and midfield play will be our strengths right off the bat," Gentille said. "Those positions were set for us as to who we were going to be slotting in."
The first-year players may have the biggest impact when everything is said and done. This list includes seven underclassmen.
The first-year players are seniors Hady Truesdail (defender), Sarah Jadallah (forward) and Katie Newberry (defender); sophomores Ally Campanella (forward and midfielder), Emily Ritenour (defender), Kali Sweet (defender), Leah Beseda (forward) and Maddie Coates (midfielder); and freshmen Eve Berish (midfielder and forward) and Lauren Pacsi (forward).
"The next few seasons look really good with the players we have on varsity," Gentille said. "With the experience they will get, it will only benefit us as the season goes."
Laura Hester is Gentille’s varsity assistant. Andrew Martin is the junior varsity A coach and Cliff Grove will lead the squad’s other JV team.
Can this mixture of veteran players and newcomers give Hudson a chance to compete for a district championship?
Time will tell. Nonetheless, Gentille likes what he sees thus far.
"In terms of our defense and forward play, we will be moving new players in those starting roles, so it may take a couple weeks of regular-season games to really sort ourselves out as to who we will be as a team," Gentille said.
"I like the direction we are heading in both of those areas, so it will be fun to watch as we develop throughout the season."
The Lady Explorers are scheduled to make their 2018 debut against Medina Friday on the road. Play is set to begin at 7 p.m.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.