HUDSON — With its most anticipated contest of the season lurking closely in its rearview mirror, the Hudson girls lacrosse team had a chance to fine-tune some things against a struggling opponent.
Of course, the Lady Explorers’ so called "tune-up" was nothing of the kind.
In a contest that featured cold temperatures and quite a few snowflakes, Hudson dealt with a surprisingly tough opponent Monday on its home field.
It was tense throughout the match, had plenty of drama and the elements were not exactly ideal.
However, the Lady Explorers’ record remained unblemished.
Hudson improved to 5-0 with a thrilling 10-8 victory over Rocky River Magnificat. The Lady Explorers trailed much of the first half and held on despite a serious push by a very motivated and very skilled Lady Blue Streaks’ team.
"I spoke to one of their coaches and they talked about how they were defeating themselves," first-year Hudson head coach Sarra Qadri said. "This was the first time they came together. We didn’t expect this."
The Lady Explorers may have had other things on their mind, too.
Hudson is scheduled to visit Robert Fife Stadium in Massillon to play 2017 state runner-up Jackson Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The Lady Polar Bears have had the Lady Explorers’ number in recent years.
One of those wins was a 12-4 victory over Hudson in a regional title match last year.
"We definitely looked ahead," Qadri said. "We underestimated them (the Lady Blue Streaks). We definitely have a target on our backs."
The first half was particularly difficult for the Lady Explorers.
Hudson lost 10 of 11 draws in the first 25 minutes. As a result, Magnificat (2-5) had the ball for nearly six minutes longer than the Lady Explorers.
In fact, when Emily Elliott scored off an assist from Grace Jenny, the Lady Blue Streaks, who were led by head coach Kayla Miller, a former Hudson standout, took a 3-1 lead a little more than seven minutes into the match.
But despite Magnificat’s dominance of possession, the Lady Explorers had a knack for making the absolute most of their limited opportunities.
Hudson tied the match at five with 7:44 left in the half after a turnover.
Mia Becker got an interception deep in her own end and advanced the ball toward Lady Blue Streak territory.
The ball eventually went to Piper Trattner, who found an open Emily Dunne in front of Magnificat’s goal. Dunne easily scored to tie the match.
The Lady Explorers got a crucial goal as the first-half clock expired.
Again, Hudson was able to get in position to score, thanks to a ground ball by Becker.
With 5 seconds left, Elizabeth Hinkle was awarded a free-position shot. As she advanced the ball, she ran into a Lake Blue Streak defender, who was called for a shooting-space violation.
That gave Hinkle another free-position opportunity with two seconds left and she delivered with a shot into the upper part of the net as time expired.
The Lady Explorers won 6 of 8 draws after halftime, but they had trouble with turnovers throughout the match. Hudson lost the ball 23 times.
As a result, Magnificat was able to hang around mainly because of the play of Jenny.
The speedy attack scored three of her match-high four goals in the second half, thanks to her explosiveness on fast breaks.
"No. 5 (Jenny) kept pushing," Qadri said. "My girls were not as aggressive on the draws."
Jenny’s third goal tied the match at seven with 14:01 remaining.
Nonetheless, the Lady Explorers responded in crunch time.
A little more than a minute later, Trattner made a nice move to lose a defender on the left side of the field before finishing in front of the goal.
Some four minutes later, Hudson took a 9-7 advantage on another critical play in the back.
Becker got a ground ball deep in her own end and gave it back to her offensive teammates.
Sarah Hinkle passed to Paige Palumbo, who made a nice move to get past a defender, before switching her stick from one hand to the other before finishing from point-blank range.
Jenny struck again less than 80 seconds later, but Elizabeth Hinkle scored to make it 10-8 with 2:31 remaining. Maggie Palumbo was credited with the assist.
The Lady Explorers won the next draw, but they eventually turned it over.
The Lady Blue Streaks got deep in Hudson’s end with approximately a minute left, but Lily Edwards ended the threat when she scooped up a ground ball and allowed her teammates to run out the clock.
"Mia Becker and Kate Orazen brought the ball up from our defense toward the end," Qadri said. "We had no problems getting the ball to the offensive side. Once we got it there, we struggled to maintain it."
Trattner led Hudson with four goals and Elizabeth Hinkle scored twice. Tyler Vidmar added a goal and an assist and Sarah Hinkle also scored for the Lady Explorers.
Maggie Palumbo had two assists and Kendall Paltani finished with one assist for Hudson. Emily Ritenour scooped up four ground balls for the Lady Explorers.
Natalie Heisterkamp, Antonia Trickett, Emily Elliott and Casey Mueller each scored one goal for Magnificat.
Hudson goalies Mackenzie Hornung, who played the first half, and Kristin Potts, made six and two saves, respectively, between the pipes.
Lady Blue Streaks’ goalie Kaitlin Hall stopped seven shots.
The Lady Explorers had a 17-16 advantage in shots. But Hudson’s ability to pick up loose balls may have been the difference in the match.
The Lady Explorers had a mind-boggling 24-3 edge in ground balls.
While Qadri will take the win, Hudson will have to do some major tinkering if it wants to compete against the elite squads.
"The weather didn’t help," she said. "Everything just looked sloppy. Toward the end, we figured it out on offense."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.