HUDSON — It’s an occasion that is enthusiastically celebrated during the second Sunday in May.
As for the members of the Hudson field hockey team, they decided to observe the holiday four months later.
On a Monday, no less.
No one seemed to mind, though. It was the very least they could do for their second favorite pink carnation.
“It felt amazing to see her before the game,” senior midfielder Reese Stiller said. “We all gave her a big hug.”
The players’ outpouring love and affection engulfed a very significant woman in their lives. Her name is Louise Knox, the patient and kindhearted Explorers’ second-year head coach who returned after a brief personal hiatus.
Simply calling her coach wouldn’t do Knox justice. She is the players’ teacher, protector and friend.
To at least one of her pupils, Knox’s impact is far more significant. She is the team’s unquestioned materfamilias.
“Coach Knox is our second mom to everybody,” Stiller said. “Without her, it just didn’t feel complete. Having her back is just really nice.”
So what made this heartfelt, precious moment possible? The answer is rather bittersweet. It’s rather tragic, as a matter of fact.
Knox’s husband, Kevin, passed away Sept. 11 after a five-month battle with lung cancer. Due to his overwhelming illness and eventual passing, Knox did not attend the Explorers’ previous three matches.
On Monday, Hudson’s selfless leader returned. And her players gave her the best welcome-back present possible.
Thanks to a dominant performance by their offense, the Explorers routed Walsh Jesuit 8-0. The Northeast Ohio Field Hockey League contest took place at Conway Memorial Stadium’s Marhofer Field in Cuyahoga Falls.
Despite the unspeakable devastation of losing the love of her life, Knox decided enough was enough. As 20th-century American composer Irving Berlin once said, “The song is ended, but the melody lives on.”
“It feels like home,” Knox said. “It’s a family atmosphere. All I can say is, it’s just like coming home.”
“Coming home” couldn’t have been more delightful for the emotionally drained field-hockey guru.
That’s because her team looked like its typical, rarefied self.
As it has done for so many years, Hudson used the ball as if it was its own personal yo-yo, thanks to its artistic possession game. The Explorers had a flair for putting passes right to their teammates’ sticks with impeccable regularity.
The aesthetically pleasing strategy put Walsh’s defense in perilous situations throughout the match. To put it in matter-of-fact terms, the Warriors didn’t have a chance.
“In the beginning, we definitely had to work better as a team,” Stiller said. “Just learn to pass and get back in our mojo from last year. Now I think we’re starting to click again. I definitely think we’re a contender for the final four this year.”
It would be hard to argue with the clairvoyant, stickhandling magician. Hudson advanced to the state final last season and has reached the top of the Buckeye State’s mountain three times in its illustrious history.
What is the best explanation for the Explorers’ seemingly infinite regal status? It has something to do with a Latin phrase that may have been first coined more than 500 years ago.
“Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno.” Translation: “One for all, all for one.”
“Basically, field hockey is a team sport,” Stiller said. “When you have 11 solo players on the field, it never really works out well. You have to learn to play as a team, play together.”
To “play together” is only part of the Explorers’ well-oiled and practically indestructible machine. Sticking together and remaining a family have been, and always will be, long standing principles for Hudson field hockey.
Such a fact was never more evident in the last couple of weeks. That’s because a certain grief-stricken matriarch needed her players just as much as they needed her.
Or, as 17th-century Quaker William Penn quipped: “They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies.”
“I feel like having her back is when everything just came together,” Stiller said.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.