HUDSON — Not long after her surprisingly lopsided victory at the U.S. Open final back in 2001, Venus Williams candidly admitted that she always wanted her overmatched opponent to win.
Let’s just say that “overmatched opponent” had strikingly similar features to the seven-time Grand Slam champion.
“I’m the bigger sister,” Williams said. “I love her.”
Of course, Venus was referring to her younger sister Serena, who is regarded by many as the greatest female tennis player to ever walk the earth.
Ally Campanella may not match the reputation of the famed Williams’ sisters.
Like the often underappreciated Venus, though, the Hudson junior forward has an overwhelming amount of love for her much accomplished BFF.
That would be her older sister Anna.
“She motivates me a lot,” Ally said.
The younger sibling is certainly wise to lean on her big sis. Anna, who is now a freshman midfielder for the Kent State University women’s soccer team, had quite a career on the pitch during her four-year tenure at a school located not far from Route 303.
Anna helped lead the Explorers to a district title game twice during her illustrious career. As a senior, the elder Campanella was the team’s unquestioned leader who justified her reputation by earning first-team All-Suburban League National Conference honors.
Ally, on the other hand, is carving out quite a reputation for herself in the early stages of the 2019 season. Hudson, which features a plethora of underclassmen, has turned to its playmaking junior to steer the Explorers’ ship.
It seems to be sailing smoothly thus far.
Hudson rebounded from an unsatisfying draw against a conference opponent with a breathtaking victory over a top-ranked opponent.
Copley, which was ranked No. 1 in a recent Division II state poll, fell to the host Explorers by a 2-1 margin Saturday at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Thanks to the thrilling victory, Hudson’s record improved to 3-2-1 on the season. More importantly, it got the Explorers’ ship safely to shore after some faulty electrical connections and a raging sea.
“We met together before the game and we talked about what we needed to do to get better, our goals and what we needed to achieve this game,” Ally said. “We did that.”
A certain teenager with a rather noteworthy sister sure did.
With 28 minutes, 33 seconds left in the game, Ally put matters to rest by using a body part that is normally utilized for academic purposes.
That would be her head.
Ally’s flinty cranium deflected a Kali Sweet corner kick into the net to give Hudson a 2-1 advantage.
At first glance, Ally appeared comfortable playing the role of innocent bystander on what turned out to be the game-winning set piece.
However, the younger Campanella decided to take the initiative. Her teammates will be forever grateful she did.
“It happened so fast,” Ally said. “Whenever she [Sweet] hit it, I saw it coming. I thought [teammate] Alice [Xu] was going to get to it, but then I was like, ‘I just want to go for that.’
“I hit it and it went in. My team was so happy. It was a great goal.”
This moment of joy was well-deserved since it took place against a formidable opponent that has high hopes of playing deep into October.
“It was a great ball by Kali,” Hudson head coach Chris Gentille said. “Ally just found a gap. It was a great header.”
The Explorers hope to be “great” by the time postseason play takes center stage. They’re getting there.
Hudson has been stricken by a rash of injuries. Thankfully, the worst appears to be over.
Forward Tori Liesen returned to the field the previous week and forward Demi Gutierrez made her much-awaited season debut to the pitch Saturday. The Explorers are still missing midfielder Kierstin Havens, who suffered a leg injury during the team’s season opener last month.
“Tori is a great forward,” Ally said. “She helps us so much and Demi does too. We’re excited for Kier to come back.”
If the team continues its stellar play, Hudson hopes to tear down a wall that has been quite merciless in recent years.
That would be the grueling Division I sectional-district barrier. The Explorers, despite coming agonizingly close a number of times, have not reached regional play since 2010.
“If we keep this pace, if we keep this motivation and keep the energy and the love, we can totally get there and win a lot,” Ally said.
If Hudson does “get there,” Ally will look toward a certain young lady to guide her every step of the way.
Why not? As novelist Alice Walker once said, “Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister?”
It’s a safe bet one member of the Campanella family would answer that question with this emphatic two-word response.
“Just seeing her do so much in Hudson soccer the last four years she was on it, I just knew that I wanted to be just like her and follow in her footsteps,” Ally said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.