BROADVIEW HEIGHTS — Hudson head girls soccer coach Chris Gentille can only wonder how good his team would be if everyone was healthy.
The Explorers still have a long way to go to reach that status. But Hudson did get one of its top players back on the field.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to get a critical conference victory.
Hudson earned a 1-1 draw with host Brecksville-Broadview Heights in a Suburban League National Conference showdown Wednesday.
The Explorers (2-2-1, 1-0-1), who have been lacking some key players, including starter Kierstin Havens, welcomed back junior forward Tori Liesen, who had missed the first four games because of health issues. Liesen played the final 20 minutes of the game.
"It’s good to have her back," Gentille said of Liesen. "I thought she looked pretty good. She brings a different dynamic for us. Once we get Kierstin back and we re-acclimate everybody together, we’ll start hitting our stride as we get closer to the playoffs."
The Bees dominated the first half and were up 1-0 at the break. Playing the ball into open spaces and then allowing its speedy playmakers to run onto it at full speed, Brecksville put all kinds of pressure on Hudson’s defense in the first 40 minutes.
"We got lucky only being down one," Gentille said. "We made some adjustments with the formation. We moved some people from different spots. The energy was there in the second half. I thought we dominated it most of the second half."
The first half was another story, though.
It didn’t take long for the Bees to put the Explorers in a precarious position.
Less than two minutes after the ball was first kicked, Molly Holzinger played a textbook through ball to Eva Suntenavic, who got the ball in stride, took a few dribbles and drilled a low line drive into the net.
The Bees had plenty of other chances, including a few from point-blank range. However, Brecksville couldn’t connect again the rest of the way.
Hudson, on the other hand, did connect.
The Explorers made a formation change that allowed them to control the pace for much of the second half.
"We wanted to eliminate some areas of the field that they were doing some good combination plays," Gentille said. "We were getting beat really easy in the first half. We could have been down two or three at certain points of the game."
Hudson’s lone goal was aided by some good fortune.
Reagan Miele got free on the right side. Running out of options, Miele simply chipped the ball toward the goal from the corner of the field.
The high, somewhat tricky shot fell in and out of the hands of Bees’ goalkeeper Lauren Hinshaw. The ball wound up going over the line and into the net. That tally tied the game a little more than three minutes into the second half.
"That was a good goal for us to get early in the second half," Gentille said. "It kind of gave us a little energy to keep pushing in the second half."
Both teams had some chances in the closing minutes, but neither squad could convert.
Goalkeeper Lily Morgan made six saves for the Explorers. Brecksville had a 7-5 advantage in shots on goal and a 4-3 edge in corner kicks.
Although his team made a 180-degree switch after halftime, Gentille is fortunate his team didn’t fall further into a hole.
"We’re not happy we tied, but we’re a little lucky to come out with a tie, especially with the way the first half went," he said. "Tori had a great look in the middle of the field that she just missed."
Gentille has stressed finishing throughout the season. That includes finishing plays, finishing shots and finishing passes.
"We had some opportunities," Gentille said. "We missed some chances; we missed some final-pass looks to generate a better shot."
The Explorers didn’t generate enough shots against perennial state powerhouse Medina Saturday at Hudson Memorial Stadium. In fact, they didn’t generate any shots.
The Bees did not have many scoring chances either. On this day, though, all it took was one.
"We played OK," Gentille said. "Our energy was down throughout the game. It was a really quiet game for us. It was one of those days.
"They’re still good. I thought we blew an opportunity to try to steal one. We let one get away. Even though we didn’t generate a lot of shots, we had a lot of opportunities to take shots. We just didn’t take them."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.