HUDSON — When it comes to Ohio high school field hockey, two teams are considered the gold standard.
Columbus Academy, out of Gahanna, has won 10 state titles, and Thomas Worthington has captured six state championships, including the last three.
Hudson, on the other hand, has three state titles in its illustrious history.
In fact, the Explorers lost to the Cardinals in the 2015 state final and could see them down the road deep in the postseason.
Whether that happens or not is still to be determined. For now, though, Thomas Worthington has the upper hand.
Host Hudson suffered its first loss of the season after falling to the Cardinals 3-1 Saturday at Scott Malson Field.
With the loss, the Explorers dropped to 4-1. Thomas Worthington, led by longtime head coach Terri Simonett-Frost, improved to 7-0.
The Cardinals scored twice in the first half and added another goal midway through the second half.
Hudson finally got on the board after a penalty corner late in the match.
Nonetheless, Thomas Worthington simply had too many weapons, too much speed and too much skill for the Explorers, who had balls taken away from them throughout the afternoon, thanks to the Cardinals’ quick stick work.
"We want to play the strongest competition in the state," Hudson first-year head coach Louise Knox said. "We're not going to get better unless we do that. We have a big two weeks with lots of games."
Hudson has four matches next week, including a showdown with Columbus Academy next Friday on the road.
The Explorers faced a formidable team for the second time in as many matches. Hudson beat longtime nemesis Shaker Heights 3-1 Wednesday at Malson Field despite facing a barrage of Red Raiders’ penalty corners.
Unfortunately, it was more of the same against the defending state champs. This time, the Explorers had very few scoring chances and were unable to take advantage of their limited opportunities.
However, Knox had no issues with the end result.
"The whole game was encouraging," she said. "In our region, this is the second game where we have played high-level competition that has stretched our defense as well as our attack.
"There were many good things that happened. There weren't flashy goals on either end. Both teams showed grit. We're still early in the season and we have things to work on."
Thomas Worthington had a 13-5 advantage in penalty corners and a 17-6 edge in shots on goal. Junior goaltender Sadie Mrakuzic and the Hudson defense stayed quite busy as the Cardinals were on the attack for much of the afternoon.
Sophomore midfielder Mollie Estepp, who took all of her team’s penalty corners, gave Thomas Worthington a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes, 26 seconds left.
Senior attack Julia Scharff made it 2-0 off a penalty corner nearly seven minutes later and senior midfielder Rachel Rinaldi scored on a shot that was deflected into the goal from the right side midway through the second half.
The Explorers got their lone goal off a penalty corner.
Senior forward Grace Hildebrand took the corner and the ball landed at sophomore Hanna Killeen’s stick. Killeen passed the ball to junior forward Katie Moloney, who finished from the right side from point-blank range.
But the Cardinals maintained possession the rest of the way and nearly got a fourth goal when senior attack Sarah Charley got free on a breakaway before Hudson forced a turnover.
"We pushed farther playing our game (in the second half)," Knox said. "We stretched the field and we were better with double-teaming.
"We were more aggressive on moving forward with stick skill instead of trying to get rid of the ball. We have the skill and ability to play any team."
Senior goalie Isabelle Perese made three saves for Thomas Worthington.
Since her team is playing a schedule loaded with heavyweights, wins and losses aren’t a particularly huge issue for Knox.
"We play one game, one practice at a time," she said. "Competition is more important than the outcome at this time of the season."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.