STOW — When the Stow-Munroe Falls and Hudson girls soccer met Oct. 2, Explorers coach Chris Gentille felt his team was the better side for 70 minutes in that contest.
The problem for Hudson was a three-minute span that yielded three goals for Stow. That spurt gave Stow a 3-2 win and helped propel the Bulldogs to the Suburban League National Conference title.
Once the brackets were set for the Division I Solon district tournament, however, Hudson knew it had a good chance to face the Bulldogs again in the postseason.
In fact, it was a much more even game Thursday during the Division I sectional final at the Stow Soccer Stadium. The two teams put on one of the best games in the history of the rivalry.
Hudson senior Kierstin Havens got a free-kick goal in the 94th minute, giving the Explorers a 3-2 win in overtime.
With the win, Hudson (8-7-3) advances to face top-seeded Walsh Jesuit in district semifinal game Monday at 7 p.m. at Walsh. Stow finished its season at 11-6.
Gentille said he felt his team was peaking at the right time.
“With all the injuries we’ve had and with everything we’ve dealt with, I think we’re in a good place,” Gentille said. “We’re playing with house money now, so we’re going to just play as hard as we can.
“I thought we started off well, getting the early goal,” Gentille said. “After they got their second goal, I think we really controlled play.”
Stow coach Jim Dudones said his team had nothing to be ashamed of.
“It was a great high school soccer match. I was proud to be a part of it,” Dudones said. “What we wanted to be sure of is that we did everything that we could. We did that tonight. It stinks, but we’re not going to be unhappy with how we played.”
From the start, the game featured end-to-end soccer as both teams had numerous scoring chances in the first half.
Hudson was able to score first. In the 12th minute, junior Ally Campanella got a fortunate bounce on a cross and was able to sprint into the box.
Campanella put her shot across the goal, giving Stow goalie Taylor Galioto no chance and made it 1-0.
Stow was able to find the equalizer just two minutes later. Bulldog forward Madi Marino was able to shrug off a tackle at the top of the box and feed the ball wide to Paige Klingensmith.
Klingensmith lofted a shot on goal that went just over Hudson goalie Mackenzie Pierce and just under the crossbar, tying the score at 1-1.
Galioto and Pierce were called on often in the contest as both teams finished with 12 shots on goal. Galioto finished with eight saves, while Pierce had nine as each team also hit the crossbar once in the game.
With the score tied 1-1 at the half, both teams started playing more physical in the second half.
It was another high shot that allowed Stow to take the lead in the 64th minute.
A nice run from Grace Beck down the right side yielded a cross into the box and Marino chipped a shot towards the back post. Pierce got a hand on the ball, but couldn’t prevent it from going over the line to make it 2-1.
“I didn’t like going down 2-1, but I think it woke us up,” Gentille said. “We had a lot of chances created in the last 15 minutes, we just needed to take advantage.
After several near misses, Hudson found the equalizer in the 73rd minute. Havens was able to get past her defender near the end line and send a cross to the back post. Sophomore Lauren Pacsi corralled the ball with her chest and put it in the net to tie it at 2-2.
With the game tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, both teams gave up numerous fouls in the overtime period, as both goaltenders came up big early.
“We had just said we were nervous about [set pieces], because they hadn’t executed a good free kick all game,” Dudones said. “If you’ve got good players, eventually they’re going to get one.”
That’s exactly what happened when Stow was called for a foul about 35 yards out from the goal in the 94th minute. Havens stepped up and hit a perfect high shot on goal, which flew just over Galioto’s hands and into the net to end the game.
“Kierstan hadn’t taken a free kick all game,” Dudones said. “She hit it right on the money and dropped it right in there.”
Dudones will say goodbye to Marino, Jane Freeman, Mckenzie Klingensmith and Katie Goldan due to graduation this spring, but he believes the future of his program is bright.
“The four players we lose are amazing players,” Dudones said. “We’re not going to replace them. We’re not going to ask our girls to be Madi Marino or Mckenzie Klingensmith. We’re going to ask them to get better themselves and that’s good enough.”
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO.