MACEDONIA — Last fall, the Nordonia girls soccer team announced its arrival by doing something unprecedented: The Knights beat long-time nemesis Hudson.
This year, the Knights have high aspirations, while the Explorers’ nemesis has been the injury bug.
As Hudson coach Chris Gentille noted, the Explorers’ walking wounded are starting to get back in shape. They showed what they could do Monday at Boliantz Stadium in Macedonia.
After giving up a goal in the first three minutes, Hudson’s offense seemed to get stronger as the game went on, as the Explorers scored a 4-1 win.
Hudson improved to 4-5-2 overall and 2-2-1 in the Suburban League National Conference, while Nordonia dropped to 6-5-1 overall and 1-3-1 in the National Conference.
"We’re transitioning without [goalkeeper] Lily Morgan," Gentille said. "We’re starting to get healthy in the field, which is going to help Mac [goalie Mackenzie Pierce]. [Monday] was the first time we really had the lineup we thought we would have all season. Once we figure things out in the field, we should be fine."
Meanwhile, Nordonia head coach Les Gicei was left searching for answers.
"We just can’t light a fire under the girls right now," Gicei said. "Our effort didn’t seem to be there [Monday]. Hudson was running though balls. We weren’t. There were a lot of technical problems too."
The Knights got off to a perfect start in the game. In the third minute, captain Grace Koperna lofted a long shot that got through traffic and into the net, making it 1-0.
However, Nordonia lacked a finishing touch in front of the goal for the rest of the game. The Explorers had no such issues.
Gentille noted this was the first game where juniors Tori Liesen and Ally Campanella were able to play forward together and the duo helped give Hudson the lead.
In the 20th minute, Liesen made nice run across the top of the box before unleashing a high shot that landed in the upper left corner of the net, giving Nordonia goalie Sheyli Wetzel no chance.
Five minutes later, a long ball over the top allowed Campanella to sprint behind the Knights’ defense. Going one-on-one with Wetzel, Campanella shot low to the right and made it 2-1.
The long through ball proved to be Hudson’s best weapon on the night.
"They were pushing up so much on defense, they were leaving some gaps," Gentille said. "It’s just what the defense was giving us."
Wetzel made several leaping saves on the night. She finished with seven saves, as the Explorers finished the game with an 11-9 edge in shots on goal. Pierce finished with seven saves, as the Knights hit the post twice.
There was nothing Wetzel could do in the 45th minute. Hudson was awarded a free kick about a foot outside the box. Junior Maddie Coates stepped up and stuck perfect ball into the upper left corner of the net to make it 3-1.
Just two minutes later, Liesen got her second goal of the night — in one of the weirdest ways possible.
Hudson forward Reagan Miele lofted a high ball along the end line. The awkward ball forced Wetzel to reach up and try to throw the ball forward. The ball deflected off Liesen’s back and the referee ruled the ball crossed the goal line before Wetzel could retrieve the rebound.
Nordonia’s night was encapsulated in the 69th minute. The Knights earned a penalty kick when a player was obstructed in the box, but captain Sam Wiehe put her shot wide.
"I thought Hudson just outworked us [Monday]," Gicei said.
Both teams only had 48 hours to get ready for the next round of National Conference games. Hudson is set to host Stow-Munroe Falls Wednesday at 7 p.m., while Nordonia visits Cuyahoga Falls Wednesday at 7 p.m.