The Hudson girls soccer team found itself in an unfamiliar position.

After spending many years as one of the top teams in the Kent Division I district tournament, the Lady Explorers didn't get out of the first week of the postseason.

Hudson, which finished 9-6-2 in 2016, saw its season come to an abrupt end with a 1-0 loss to Solon in a Division I sectional title game.

The Lady Explorers also finished second to North Royalton by a single point in the Suburban League National Conference.

Fortunately, Hudson, which finished 4-1-2 in the conference last year, will have significantly less adjustments to make this fall.

Going into the 2016 season, the Lady Explorers had three head coaches in the past three years.

That will change this year as Chris Gentille is back for his second year. The 14th-year head coach, who also was the head coach at Twinsburg and Ravenna, has a career record of 125-61-25.

"Last season was an up-and-down season since myself and a whole new staff came on board at the very end of July," Gentille said. "It was a tough transition for those girls to have to learn and adapt to myself and the staff so quickly.

"The girls adjusted as well as they could on the fly and to win nine games last season is a testament to those girls last season and the ones returning this season."

The Lady Explorers lost several players to graduation. They are forward Morgan Widdoes, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, midfielder Claire McIsaac, forward/midfielder Rayna McLean, defender/goalkeeper Kimberly Sauers and defender Brooke Balash.

Nonetheless, since his current players have a year of experience with the new coaching staff under their belts, Gentille feels his team is much further along than it was last fall.

"We are better already based on the fact we had an off-season together, a summer agenda together and of course, a preseason," he said.

As of now, Hudson, which was forced to change its lineup dramatically because of some devastating injuries, had no health issues.

"I feel we will put ourselves in position this season to have chance to win the conference and make a nice deep run come playoff time if we can stay away from the injury bug that cost us last season during the playoffs," Gentille said.

"If we stay healthy, we should put ourselves in position to have a chance each night to win and that is all you can ask for out of a group; it should be fun to watch this season."

The Lady Explorers have plenty of upperclassmen on the roster. Eight seniors will lead the way.

They are defenders Molly Charpentier, Cali Stuursma, Ang Giaimo and Malloree Weber; midfielders Olivia Adkins and Elena Vuksta; and forwards Lucy Marshall, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and Grace Killeen.

"We return of wealth of talent and experience this season," Gentille said. "We lost five key seniors and we will miss them for sure. But with only five seniors last season, we return the majority of our team.

"We should compete all season long and have a chance to do some special things this season. We return a great senior class that has done an outstanding job during the off-season and preseason. We will go as far as our seniors with their leadership on and off the field."

The junior class is led by forward Jordan Manley, who led the team with 10 goals and 7 assists last season. Other juniors include forwards Lexi Muccino; midfielder Anna Campanella; and defenders Meredith Liechty and Kate Saxer.

The sophomore class features Lily Morgan, who was the starting goalkeeper in 2016, midfielders Lauren Heidler and Kierstin Havens; defenders Abby Kern and Samantha Betts; and forward Mia Becker.

"Our sophomores and juniors are very solid this season and the newcomers have fit in really well so far," Gentille said. "They are making an impact already."

The varsity assistant is Laura Hester. The junior varsity 'A' head coach is Andrew Martin. The JV 'B' coach is Cliff Grove and Ally Miller is a volunteer assistant.

Things didn't go quite as planned for Gentille and his team last fall. This year, on the other hand, is a brand new year and Gentille can't wait to see what his players can do.

"Our strength is going to be the experience these girls received last season," he said. "Being asked to play in big moments last season was only going to make them better and prepared for this season.

"Our whole roster is solid from top to bottom, so I don't see many weaknesses at the moment.

Hudson is scheduled to make its 2017 debut against Medina Aug. 18 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.

The Lady Explorers are set to host Boardman Aug. 21. Both varsity contests are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.


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