HUDSON — They’ve had some exciting games over the years in both the regular season and the postseason.
But the Rough Riders have learned a hard lesson in recent years when it comes to a certain talented Suburban League crossover rival.
They can’t solve the Explorers.
The host Hudson girls soccer team improved to 9-3 in 2018 after earning a convincing 5-0 victory over Kent Roosevelt Saturday at Lavelli Field.
With the win, the Explorers, who have had the Rough Riders’ number in recent years, earned their third straight victory. Roosevelt dropped to 2-5-3.
Hudson controlled possession the majority of the game and had a 9-1 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-2 edge in corner kicks.
The Explorers weren’t distracted by a busy weekend.
Saturday was the day of the homecoming dance, so the Hudson players most likely didn’t have much time to dwell on their latest win.
All in all, though, it was a strong effort for the Explorers. But Hudson head coach Chris Gentille would like to see his players keep the ball at their feet more often.
"Possession was a big thing for us," Gentille said. "We do have to limit the turnovers or it’s going to be a problem for us, moving forward, come playoff time.
"We have to make sure that we’re a little more cleaner with the ball out of the back throughout the midfield and connect with our forwards, so we can do something on the outside and get the ball back to the middle."
The Rough Riders also had their homecoming dance Saturday. And Roosevelt has a number of young players, who are still figuring out the hard lessons varsity high school soccer has to offer.
"They’re the complete package," Roosevelt head coach Jerry Shutway said of the Explorers. "We have talent and we have a sense of how to play the game. The difficulty we’re facing is that we’re a relatively young team and we tend to buckle under pressure.
"We don’t have the confidence that when there is a loose ball, we can get to it. That’s when Hudson is on the guard and they get there before us.
"We’re arriving late or we’re not going there at all. Hudson has a psychological advantage. We’ve been dealing with that all season."
The Explorers took control with two goals in the first 15 minutes of the game. The first goal took place moments after the opening whistle.
Kierstin Havens had an open net from the left side of the field when Rough Riders’ junior goalkeeper Cassidy Bourne came out of her own net to get to a previous shot attempt by Hudson.
Havens easily scored with her left foot. Havens struck again when she headed in a corner kick from the right side by sophomore midfielder Maddie Coates.
The Explorers got another goal with less than 30 seconds left in the half when freshman Lauren Pacsi scored on an open net.
Pacsi had a big game for the Explorers.
Her cross hit the post and then landed at the right foot of senior forward Sarah Jadallah, who promptly finished from point-blank range.
Pacsi also delivered the corner kick to freshman midfielder Eve Berish, who volleyed the shot into the corner of the net for the final goal of the match.
"She has great speed and good size," Gentille said of Pacsi. "Lauren and Eve (Berish) both have raw talent.
"They’ve done well this year with adjusting to high school play, being 14 years old going up against 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds. Next year, they should take big steps for us."
Bourne finished with four saves for the Rough Riders, who had a shot on a wide-open net go over the goal early in the first half. Roosevelt also generated some chances late in the second half, but Hudson’s defense was able to keep the ball out of its nets.
"In a game like this, I expected Hudson to be fast and tenacious and quick on the ball everywhere," Shutway said. "We’ve had games against Streetsboro or Revere where we dominated large chunks of the game because they weren’t pressuring us.
"Once we got a lead on those teams, they woke up and started pressuring us. When they did that, we were nervous and jittery. If we’re not under pressure, we look like Brazil."
Shutway praised senior midfielder Maria Brixner, who, appropriately enough, is a Brazilian native.
He also had high praise for his two center backs, Carley Wolfgang and Kylie Hudson.
"They are two of the strongest junior fullbacks that I can think of in the Cleveland/Akron area," Shutway said. "In the midfield, Maria has the composure to be a playmaker, but she’s surrounded by some youth."
Both teams still have a chance to get at least a piece of their conference titles.
If Roosevelt wins its last two American Conference games, it could possibly finish in a four-way tie with Copley, Aurora and Highland.
The Explorers are in a must-win situation. They need to beat undefeated and state-ranked Twinsburg, which is scheduled to entertain Hudson Wednesday at 7 p.m., if they want at least a share of the National Conference championship.
Hudson also is scheduled to play Wadsworth Oct. 9 at Hudson Memorial Stadium. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Like the Explorers, the Grizzlies are 4-1 in the conference.
"They’re in first place, we’re in second place," Gentille said of the Tigers. "Whoever wins that game is probably going to have a good shot at winning the conference.
"We have a nice game plan. I’ve watched them play two or three times. They’re one of the top 10 teams in the state this year.
"I think we’re all excited to still have an opportunity to play for a conference title even after we dropped that one to Nordonia (1-0 Sept. 6)."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.