The Hudson field hockey team lost seven seniors to graduation.

That included the Northeast Ohio Field Hockey Player of the Year.

It also included its best defender.

So what does that mean for the supposedly devastated Explorers?

Apparently, very little.

"We lost some talent, but luckily, Hudson field hockey is strong," second-year Hudson head coach Louise Knox said. "We’re going to reload and go back to work."

Just like they always do.

The Explorers, who have been among the area and state’s elite for what seems like forever, have 13 returning players, including six starters from last year’s squad.

Let’s just say that’s very, very good news.

"We have a highly athletic group," Knox said. "We’re still learning who is going to earn starting positions. They’re all open."

Despite this wealth of talent, Hudson’s graduating players weren’t exactly chopped liver.

They actually were pretty darn good.

Thanks mainly to the Class of 2019, the Explorers reached the state final for the first time in four years. Hudson, winners of three state championships in its illustrious history, lost to Gahanna Columbus Academy 3-0 in the title match.

On their way to the grand finale, the Explorers finished 12-0 in the always vaunted NEOFHL and posted a glittering 17-4 overall mark.

Leading the way was forward Grace Hildebrand, who was named the NEOFHL Player of the Year. Hudson also lost its heart and soul on defense, Caroline Ford.

Other graduates included forwards Lily Knox and Anna Tomasulo; midfielders Ally Yard and Tyler Vidmar; and defender Lauren Niewolak.

Nonetheless, voids never seem to exist in the lair known as Hudson field hockey.

The Explorers have nine seniors on their roster. They are stick-handling expert Reese Stiller, a first-team All-Ohio midfielder, Lila Bishop (forward), Faith Donatelli (defender), Adeline Judson (midfielder/forward), Katie Moloney (forward), Sadie Mrakuzic (goalie), Cameron Rohwedder (defender), Samantha Spooner (midfielder) and Reilly Timko, a backup goalie last year who will move to one of the forward spots this fall.

"Reese is a very strong player with standout stick skills," Knox said. "Lila is very quick. She can beat the defender and get the ball up on the attack.

"Faith is a dependable defender with strong skills and speed to shift the momentum. "Adeline is a strong, hard-working player. She gives 100-percent effort and is versatile in the circle.

"Katie has strong stick skills and good field awareness. She’s good at distributing the ball. Sadie is an athletic hard worker who is a leader in the backfield. She gives 100 percent to protect the cage.

"Cam is fast and strong in clearing out plays in the backfield. Sammy came into the season with a strong fitness level and skill. She is ready to contribute. Reilly is an athletic player with speed and agility. She wanted to be back on the field."

Those nine seniors have a special place in Knox’s heart. She will be rooting for them to finish in style as they face, what the late Frank Sinatra famously called "the final curtain."

"They are a great group and highly athletic overall," Knox said. "They’ve shown a lot of heart. They care about each other. They’re a great foundation for the game."

Returning juniors include midfielders Jamison Cart and Hanna Killeen, a second-team NEOFHL selection; defender Maggie Murray, who received honorable mention All-NEOFHL honors; and forward/midfielder Marita Johnson.

"Jamison has speed, agility and grit. She has a never-give-up determination. Hanna is a standout player with speed and skill.

"Maggie is a dependable defender with strong stick skills and tactical game sense. Marita is strong with speed and shifting momentum. She will be a threat in the circle."

The Explorers also have six newcomers who will get their feet wet for a squad that has a knack for developing superstar players.

The juniors include Elena Bianconi (midfielder/defender), Ashley Hitchcock (defender) and Morgan Lindow (midfielder). The sophomores comprise Sarah Lozina (midfielder), Kaci Ramlow (midfielder/forward) and Ashley Root (forward) and the lone freshman is Brooke Buchanan (forward/midfielder).

Don’t think for a moment that these newbies won’t get their chance to excel. Like it has done for so many years, Hudson’s younger, inexperienced players have a knack for forcing their older, more experienced teammates to look over their shoulders.

"Collectively, these new varsity players are showing their athleticism, sportsmanship, grit and heart," Knox said.

Knox’s assistants are Mo Trattner, former Explorers head coach Jen Haney and Nancy Martinez.

Hudson plans to get pretty cozy in the opposition’s circle. Sadly for most of the Explorers’ opponents, they won’t have much of a choice.

"We’re going to play our strongest 11 on the field and be goal-hungry inside the 25," Knox said. "It’s exciting. We have athleticism all across the board."

The Explorers are scheduled to open their 2019 season in Shaker Heights against NEOFHL rival Laurel Wednesday. Play is set to begin at 5 p.m.

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