CUYAHOGA FALLS — So far, this season has been a series of near misses for both the Cuyahoga Falls and Hudson boys soccer teams when it comes to the Suburban League National Conference.
On Tuesday at Laybourne Field, the game between the Explorers and Black Tigers played out much like it has in recent history — which is exactly what Falls head coach Eric Ortopan did not want.
A three-goal burst early in the second half led Hudson to a 4-1 win over the Back Tigers. The Explorers improved to 3-5-1 overall and 2-1-1 in the National Conference, while Falls dropped to 2-6 overall and 0-4 in the conference.
Hudson coach Steve Knapp noted his team had a full week to stew on last week’s 1-1 draw with North Royalton, which was a game the Explorers believed they should have won.
"We were anxious," Knapp said. "We hadn’t played in week. I think, for the most part, we did what we had to do. We had a drop off after about 25 minutes, which let them get back into it."
Ortopan said the game may have been the worst of the season for the Black Tigers.
"It was not a representation of what these guys are capable of and we know it," Ortopan said. "We haven’t seen a game like this in some time. They know that we can do better."
"Against Hudson, with Steve coaching, you have to come out with you A game every time. We came out with our C game."
The Explorers controlled the possession early in the game, but needed a set piece to take the lead.
Off a corner kick in the 14th minute, Hudson’s Owen Dollins served the ball into the box. After a couple of deflections, Explorers’ defender Peyton Koscho put the ball in right on the doorstep giving Hudson a 1-0 lead.
The Explorers had a 4-0 edge in shots on goal in the first half, but Falls was able to have some moments, despite losing three starters in the first half due to hamstring injuries.
"I was playing with a Rubik’s Cube with our lineup," Ortopan said. "We had to respond though."
"We needed to be a bit cleaner," Knapp said. "When you’ve got a one-goal lead, you have be able to close it out."
Off the second-half kickoff, Hudson found that second goal. Just 15 seconds into the half, Explorers’ captain Ryan Sarkisian got open about 25 yards away from the goal and launched a perfect shot, which went in just under the crossbar.
"That was a legit goal right there," Knapp said.
"The early goal really put a hole in our sail," Ortopan said.
To its credit, the Black Tigers found an immediate reply.
Falls earned a corner kick in the 43rd minute and sent a ball into the six-yard box. Among a forest of legs, Black Tigers’ defender Mason Akins poked the ball home, cutting the lead to 2-1.
However, Hudson didn’t flinch and restored the two-goal lead in the 44th minute, thanks to some nice work by senior Aroon Tcholokov.
Tchololov was able to dribble around a pair of Falls’ defenders before sending a ball to the top of the box. Dollins was there and his hit a pinpoint shot just under Black Tigers’ goalkeeper Tanner Guffin to make it 3-1.
The Explorers iced the game in the 56th minute with a similar goal. This time, Sarkisian was able to get to the end line and send a square ball into the box. Sophomore Sean Durkin got to it an put it home.
Hudson finished with a 10-2 edge in shots on goal. Explorers’ goalkeeper Tyler Venti made one save before being subbed out in the 70th minute.
Guffin finished with six saves. Hudson had a 4-2 edge in corner kicks.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC.