Since the 21st century began, the Hudson boys soccer team has won its share of games.

Lots and lots of them, in fact.

So when the Explorers had trouble spelling the word "victory" during the early stages of the 2018 season, the fire alarms went off just about everywhere.

Nearly halfway into the season, Hudson’s record was a grotesque 2-5-1.

"The boys didn’t like that," fifth-year Explorers head coach Steve Knapp said. "I didn’t like that."

As always, the defeats eventually came to a screeching halt. Hudson turned it around quite dramatically and made a run at both the conference and district titles.

Alas, the Explorers fell just short in both categories.

Brecksville-Broadview Heights and North Royalton shared the Suburban League Conference championship in 2018. Hudson, on the other hand, finished a respectable 4-1-2 against its conference rivals and 11-7-2 overall.

Unfortunately, the Explorers’ 180-degree shift from the outhouse to the penthouse ended with an excruciating thud.

That’s because one of Hudson’s conference rivals, Stow-Munroe Falls, ruthlessly put a stop to the Explorers’ rags-to-riches’ season. In a chaotic final 10 minutes, the Bulldogs scored all of their goals to stun Hudson 3-2 and capture the Solon Division I district title.

So what does the Explorers’ postseason crystal ball look like this fall? One word: formidable.

"The district is ridiculous," Knapp said. "We played Shaker [Heights] in a sectional title game last year. Shaker and Stow are very good. Solon has its entire team back and they were very good last year."

First things first, though.

Hudson will tune up for its vaunted sectional-district bracket against an extremely challenging National Conference schedule.

Easy come, easy go? Not with this conference.

"Stow lost some very good seniors, but they have a lot of depth," Knapp said. "North Royalton is very good and Brecksville is always good."

Like last year, the Explorers, who have not won a conference championship since 2016, won’t be able to escape their menacing and talented rivals when the second season enters the fray.

Oh, and there are some pretty decent out-of-conference squads standing in Hudson’s way, as well.

"Walsh [Jesuit], Twinsburg, Brecksville and Cuyahoga Falls, who I think is going to be very good this year, are all going to be there," Knapp said. "There is no easy road. No matter what your seed is, you’re going to play good teams early."

The regular-season schedule won’t allow the Explorers to lie comfortably on a beach either.

They have dates with Division I regional semifinalist North Canton Hoover, Worthington Kilbourne and the biggest dog on the block, defending Division I state champion Medina.

Intimidating? Sure. But Knapp’s eager beavers are relishing the opportunity. And if they play their cards right, they may grip two prestigious trophies in October.

"It’s always the goal," Knapp said. "Our boys want to win a league title. It’s in our grasp. There are so many good teams in the league."

If it wants to capture that elusive crown and advance to regional play for the fourth time in six years, Hudson can’t stumble out of the gates like it did last year.

The margin of error is razor thin against a monstrous slate of imposing juggernauts.

Knapp, on the other hand, welcomes the overwhelming tension his boys will likely face. His response to his team’s upcoming dangerous but thrilling journey?

Bring it on.

"I wouldn’t have it any other way," Knapp said. "If we win the league and the district, it would be truly special."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.