HUDSON — Kyra Maludy’s message to her players was crystal clear.
“Win it for your seniors,” the first-year Hudson head girls lacrosse coach said.
The Explorers happily obliged.
Host Hudson concluded its regular season with a 15-11 victory over Powell Olentangy Liberty Friday at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
With the win, the Explorers enter the postseason with a sparkling 11-3 record. The Patriots dropped to 10-6.
Prior to the match, Hudson honored its two seniors, Kendall Paltani and Mary Castrigano.
They certainly did their part.
Paltani, an attacker, scored twice and dished out a team-high four assists and Castrigano, a midfielder, gave her team the lead for good in the second half with a free-position goal and also had two assists.
“They’re awesome girls,” Maludy said. “They are hard workers and just smart players in general. They’re great leaders to the team.”
Liberty certainly wasn’t a pushover by any stretch of the imagination.
Just when the Explorers appeared to have all of the momentum, the Patriots had a snack for snatching it away rather coldly time and time again.
Castrigano, who has excelled on free-position shots throughout the spring, broke a 6-6 tie when she found the cage with 14 minutes, 10 seconds left.
That goal promptly opened the floodgates for Hudson.
Emily Ritenour made it 8-6 just 18 seconds later and then Paltani scored on a free-position shot and later found Sarah Hinkle for another tally to make it 10-6 with a little less than nine minutes remaining.
The Explorers didn’t look back the rest of the way.
“Kendall is just this sneaky, little tiny girl that finds herself at the best possible positions at all times,” Maludy said.
The second half was a refreshing sight for Maludy after a shaky opening 25 minutes.
Hudson’s ball movement was much more prevalent after halftime and the Explorers lost the ball just six times after committing a woeful 14 turnovers in the first half.
“This team’s defense was way too aggressive,” Maludy said. “We were not going to get any iso plays because they were crashing on us very hard. We have to move it out.
“Our girls’ connection and ability to see each other is phenomenal. We just needed to remember that and rely on that.”
Hudson has certain players who can attack the cage with mesmerizing aggression. The Explorers also have deadly accurate shooters and pinpoint passers.
When all three of these powerful equations are combined into one, Hudson is a potent engine that cannot be neutralized.
In order for this to be accomplished, though, the Explorers needed to believe in a statement that was first coined by the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
“We had some passes in the middle where I didn’t see a girl coming,” Maludy said. “Our blind connections with each other is so great.
“I think that’s what led us to a better second half because we trusted each other and trusted each other to be there for them.”
Eight players scored at least one goal for Hudson.
Ritenour led the way with four goals and seven draw controls. Maggie Palumbo found the cage three times and added an assist and Sarah Hinkle scored twice and won five draws.
Lily Edwards scored once and had an assist and Peyton Farley and Maggie Murray each scored once for the Explorers, who also got seven saves from goalie Addie Judson.
Just three players scored for Liberty.
Molly Bursinger had a match-high five goals and Julia Swaro scored four times. Paige Haughn added two-second half goals for the Patriots.
“They always give us good competition,” Maludy said. “We normally give the girls scouting reports on tougher teams, but I said, ‘You know what, just go play hard. This team is going to want it bad.’”
Hudson earned the top seed in the Division I, Region 2 bracket. The Explorers are scheduled to host the Shaker Heights-Painesville Riverside winner in a Region 2 quarterfinal matchup Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The Explorers, who reached the state semifinals last season, are hoping to make another extensive journey in the postseason.
“They want it bad enough and we want it for them,” Maludy said. “They see we’re behind them 100 percent. They want to work for it. They’re going for it.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.