NORTH ROYALTON — The Hudson girls soccer team had been through some adversity in recent weeks.
The Explorers severely hurt its chances of getting at least a piece of the Suburban League National Conference title with a 1-0 loss to Nordonia Sept. 5.
On Wednesday, Hudson’s rhythm got a bit thrown off when it reached the field late due to a transportation issue.
Fortunately for the Explorers, everything is fine again.
That’s because Hudson got a crucial conference win against a quality opponent.
The Explorers improved to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the Suburban League National Conference after posting a 3-0 victory over host North Royalton at Serpentini Chevrolet Stadium.
Hudson outshot the Bears (1-0-3) 9-4 and took advantage of its scoring opportunities against a dangerous opponent that had been difficult to solve in previous matches.
"They’re always a good side," Explorers head coach Chris Gentille said. "They play a tough schedule, so every game for them is a grind. We’ve tied them the last two or three years, so it was nice to get one up on them this year."
North Royalton got deep in Hudson’s end a few times, but the Bears were unable to unleash too many quality shots on goal, thanks to the Explorers’ defense, led by senior co-captain Meredith Liechty.
"Meredith has played great in the back the last few games," Gentille said. "The last couple of games, we have been pretty solid against two good opponents."
When the Knights pulled off the upset, the Hudson players needed to get back to basics and stay focused on the tasks ahead.
So far, so good.
The Explorers earned a 2-1 win over one of the top Suburban League American Conference squads in Copley last Saturday on the road and then continued their strong all-around play against North Royalton.
"We could have easily fallen apart a little bit," Gentille said. "The Nordonia game was tough just because they kind of packed it in on us a lot throughout that whole game, so it was hard for us to find those gaps and seams.
"We played two very good opponents. We have done a very good job getting back on track. I thought it was one of our better complete games we played against a good opponent."
The defense has led the way the last two games, but accumulating wins means finding the back of the net.
That was not a problem for Hudson’s two other senior captains.
Midfielder Anna Campanella got the Explorers on the board nearly 16 minutes into the game with a hard shot that landed in and then wiggled out of the hands of Bears’ junior goalkeeper Nicole Jones.
And then it was Jordan Manley’s turn.
Manley, last year’s leading scorer who provided the assist on Campanella’s goal, made it 2-0 off a corner kick.
Sophomore midfielder Maddie Coates took the corner kick from the left side and the ball eventually landed at senior forward Lexi Muccino’s foot.
Muccino then gently kicked the ball to Manley and Manley poked it in from the right side into the lower right corner of the net 12 minutes into the second half.
Manley added a penalty kick with a little less than nine minutes remaining to seal the deal.
"They’re doing a good job leading and being the vocal leaders when they need to be," Gentille said of his senior captains. "Obviously, they have been working hard on the field as well."
Both teams had two corner kicks. Jones stopped six shots and Hudson junior goalie Lily Morgan finished with four saves. One of those stops was an acrobatic leaping save on a shot by North Royalton junior forward Sydney Rice, who had a number of breakaway opportunities in the second half.
"Lily has been playing spot on for the whole year really," Gentille said. "Only a couple of mistakes by her, but other than that, she has been fantastic.
"The last two games, she has made some really big saves for us. But that’s what she’s supposed to do and that’s what she likes to do."
The only bad news for the Explorers on this night took place late in the game when sophomore defender Kali Sweet limped off the field with a knee injury.
"It’s an MCL [medial collateral ligament] sprain," Gentille said. "She could be out a couple of weeks."
Other than the Nordonia game, Gentille has liked what he has seen from his talented group. If Hudson has its act together, it can be a formidable opponent.
Sometimes, though, things can get a tad sloppy, which can cause the Explorers’ well-oiled machine to malfunction from time to time.
"If we play the way I think we can, we can play with anybody," Gentille said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.