HUDSON — It’s a backyard rivalry both schools really appreciate.
Unfortunately for Western Reserve Academy, its neighbors from Hudson Aurora Road have featured a little more firepower in recent years.
Host Hudson cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Pioneers Thursday at Scott Malson Field. With the win, the Explorers, who ended a two-match losing streak, improved to 10-4 overall and 9-1 in the Northeast Ohio Field Hockey League. The Pioneers finished their season with a 6-6-4 overall record and were 6-4-2 in the league.
Hudson second-year head coach Louise Knox always enjoys seeing her nextdoor neighbors. Knox, a former field hockey player for the Explorers, saw Reserve on a yearly basis during her playing days. Her older sister, Lesley Cain, was a former player at WRA.
"There have been family members who have gone to WRA," Knox said. "I have a sibling that went to WRA. It’s always a good backyard rival. They get fired up and I feel WRA plays well and fights to the finish. They’re not giving up.
"I appreciate that. You always want somebody that’s going to keep fighting until the whistle blows."
Pioneers head coach Kelsey Closen knew her understrength team was a colossal underdog. Hudson, which has had its way with Reserve in recent years, reached the state title match last season.
"With Hudson, we knew it was going to be a hard game," Closen said. "They have a lot of good girls, a lot of great talent, but I was happy with the outcome."
The Explorers jumped out to a 3-0 lead, thanks to goals by Katherine Moloney, Hanna Killeen and Brooke Buchanan. Moloney scored on a penalty corner and Killeen scored off a free hit by Moloney.
Buchanan found the goal on a tip from a shot by Killeen, who dazzled the crowd with her array of moves and fancy stick-handling to get past defenders.
"She’s working hard," Knox said of Killeen. "She gives 100 percent. She wants to be a playmaker. She wants to help the team and work together to do that. [Thursday], she did very well in the right-wing position and shifting attack momentum and winning corners in the circle. She had a great game."
WRA’s Delia Rabatin, who also showcased some dazzling moves throughout the match, smashed a long shot from the left side to cut Hudson’s’ advantage to 3-1 early in the second half. Rabatin’s goal took place on a penalty corner.
However, Kaci Ramlow and Killeen scored in the final 17 minutes to put it away for the Explorers.
Hudson had a 12-7 advantage in shots on goal and a 7-2 edge in penalty corners.
Pioneers’ goaltender Joella Nagy made seven saves and Explorers’ goalie Sadie Mrakuzic stopped one shot.
Reserve was missing its starting goalie, Lucy Maule, due to a leg injury. Such a loss was a crucial blow to WRA, which has lacked depth throughout the season.
"We’ve been struggling with numbers a lot this year," Closen said. "We actually had to play a few games where we were a man down. Typically, we don’t have a sub, so our team has been doing pretty well against stronger teams."
As for the Explorers, they will turn their attention to the postseason. Hudson is the No. 2 seed in the Hudson district tournament.
The Explorers, who received an opening-round bye, are scheduled to play the Gates Mills Hawken-Shaker Heights Laurel winner next Thursday at Malson Field.
"I thought the girls played well," Knox said. "We’ve been working on quick transitions, letting the ball do the work by passing and utilizing each other with togetherness and team play, which I thought they did well. As with every year, we’re trying to be more aggressive inside the 25."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.