HUDSON - There were several factors that could have played a dangerous role in Saturday’s game.
For starters, it was senior night. It also was the final home game of the season.
And to top things off, the Explorers had unsatisfying performances in their two previous games.
When you add those factors into the equation, it would have been easy to think Hudson had every reason to simply play out the string and get ready for the second season.
Fortunately for Explorers head coach Chris Gentille, that wasn’t the case at all.
The host Hudson girls soccer team closed out its regular season in joyful fashion with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Westlake in chilly temperatures at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
With the win, the Explorers enter postseason play with a 10-4-2 record.
Prior to the game, Hudson honored seniors Kallie Newberry, Hady Truesdaill, Sarah Jadallah, Meredith Liechty, Kate Saxer, Lexi Muccino, Jordan Manley and Anna Campanella before the game.
While Gentille was proud to see his seniors get the notoriety they deserved, he also knows such an event can be a major distraction.
"It’s hard, especially with how cold it was," Gentille said. "You don’t get a good warmup in. We only got 10 minutes. With it being senior night, there are a lot of emotions.
"Those games are the best games we play and they’re the worst games we play. It’s a hard game to get up for because it’s usually your last regular-season game."
Getting up for the Demons was not an issue for the Explorers.
Hudson came out firing early and often and unlike some of their previous games, the Explorers finished when the opportunities presented themselves.
"The girls brought great energy," Gentille said. "We struggled with our energy the last couple of games. (Saturday), I thought we played a complete game. Westlake has always been a good team."
Hudson struck first nearly seven minutes into the game.
Muccino, forward, played the ball to Campanella on the right side. Campanella, a midfielder, took a few dribbles and ripped a hard shot with her right foot toward the goal.
Her shot hit the left post and then rolled past the line to give the Explorers a 1-0 lead.
The Demons (7-7-2) got the equalizer nearly 10 minutes later.
Senior defender Jolie Bogart blasted a free kick that was deflected. However, twin sister Maisy Bogart, a senior forward/midfielder, put in the loose ball from the left side.
The Explorers regained the lead five minutes later.
Manley, a forward, got free on the left side. After taking a few dribbles, she blasted a shot from approximately 25 yards away into the upper portion of the net.
Once again, though, Westlake had an answer.
A little more than a minute into the second half, junior midfielder Christina Turk tied the game when she scored off a rebound.
But Manley and Muccino settled things for good seven minutes later.
Manley made a move to get past a Demons’ defender deep in the penalty box on the left side. She turned and then sent a perfect pass toward the opposite post. Muccino ran toward the ball and drilled it into the net for a 3-2 Hudson lead.
Freshman midfielder Eve Berish had a shot hit the crossbar later in the game and Campanella had a hard shot saved by Westlake freshman goalie Lilly Vokilis in the final minute.
The Explorers had an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 3-2 edge in corner kicks.
"It was a good game for us to get ready for playoffs," Gentille said. "All the seniors played well. They got the majority of the playing time. I wanted our seniors to earn it (Saturday) and they did a good job."
Third-seeded Hudson is scheduled to entertain the Brecksville-Broadview Heights-Akron North winner in a Solon Division sectional title game next Thursday at 7 p.m.
The sixth-seeded Bees are set to host North Monday. The Explorers defeated Brecksville, a National Conference rival, 1-0 earlier in the season.
Prior to Saturday’s contest, Hudson earned a 0-0 draw with Suburban League National Conference foe Wadsworth Wednesday at home and a 1-1 tie with North Ridgeville Oct. 5 on the road.
While Gentille would have liked to see his team find the net a few more times in those games, he has been pleased with how things have gone thus far.
"We’ve had a good year," Gentille said. "We have four losses and three of them have been 1-0. We play a tough schedule. We would have liked to play better the last couple games before (Saturday). Winning this game got us in the right direction."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.