HUDSON — After enduring a barrage of serious injuries, the Hudson girls soccer team was getting closer and closer to having everybody back fresh in its lineup.
If only this good fortune actually would have lasted.
The host Explorers lost a 3-1 decision to North Royalton Wednesday at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Not only did Hudson lose a critical Suburban League Conference match, it also had two key players leave the game with injuries.
Senior goalkeeper Lily Morgan suffered a knee injury on a collision in the first few minutes of the match.
Explorers head coach Chris Gentille didn’t think the prognosis was the least bit promising.
"They brought a doctor in and they think that her ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] is torn," he said. "We hope not. We’re going to cross our fingers and hope, for her sake, it’s not. We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best at this point."
Later in the game, junior midfielder Maddie Coates limped off the field due to an ankle injury.
These unfortunate circumstances occurred after Hudson recently welcomed back junior forward Tori Liesen and sophomore forward Demi Gutierrez back into the lineup. Both players missed some games with injuries.
The Explorers also got some good news prior to the game when senior midfielder Kierstin Havens was cleared to warm up. Havens, who is not expected to play until the end of this month, also has been out of action due to a leg injury.
As a result, Hudson (3-3-2, 1-1-1), like it has done throughout the season, had to make some major adjustments on the fly.
"I just told the girls, ‘It’s going to be one of those years,’" Gentille said. "Things sometimes don’t go your way. We have to keep fighting and deal with it. Regardless of what our record is, I still think once we get things sorted out, we’ll be a dangerous team to play in the first or second round. I don’t think anyone is going to want to play us that early."
The Explorers had some other problems, as well.
They had a difficult time staying with left-footed senior forward Sydney Rice, who scored all three of the Bears’ goals.
"This is the first game where she really put her mark on a game against us," Gentille said of Rice. "The second half, we gave up a couple unfortunate goals, but we were right there with them. I couldn’t be happier with how the girls responded after a tough moment."
Freshman forward Reagan Miele scored Hudson’s lone goal approximately 30 seconds after Rice’s second goal to cut North Royalton’s lead to 2-1 with less than 25 minutes left in the game. Liesen was credited with the assist.
Alas for the Explorers, opportunities were few and far between as the Bears’ defenders elected to stay back and not allow Hudson’s attackers to get past them.
Thus, the Explorers had to settle for long-range shots outside of the Bears’ penalty box. Rice scored her final goal with approximately 15 minutes left to ice the game.
"When they got that 1-0 lead, we felt like they [the Bears] sat back a little bit," Gentille said. "We were able to put a lot of pressure on them the rest of the first half. I thought we came out strong in the second half. We had some chances, had some good looks."
North Royalton had a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks and a 7-5 edge in shots on goal. The Bears had five of their six corner kicks in the final six-plus minutes of the first half. Hudson’s defense held steady on all five of those set pieces.
Junior Mackenzie Pierce, who filled in admirably for Morgan between the posts, made four saves for the Explorers.
"We’ll figure out who we are as a team and how hard we want to play and how hard we want to fight," Gentille said. "I thought we fought hard, barring the circumstances. Mack was put in a tough spot; the team was put in a tough spot.
"I thought we had chances to compete a times, to win the game at times. The first half, we outplayed them after we gave up that first goal. We looked really good after that."
Hudson will continue to march forward despite its neverending rash of injuries. The Explorers don’t have any other choice.
"They kept fighting," Gentille said. "I’m not going to make excuses. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. Teams are going to want to try to bury you now when you’re down."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.