CUYAHOGA FALLS — When the Hudson girls soccer team visited Walsh Jesuit last year for a district semifinal game, the Explorers made history.
Hudson’s 1-0 overtime win denied the Warriors a district title for the first time since the 1990s.
Suffice it to say, motivation was not lacking in Walsh’s camp when the Explorers returned to John Kissner Field Monday for a Division I district semifinal.
Was revenge a motivating factor?
"Of course," Warriors captain Sophia Gorski said.
Walsh struck a pair of goals early and controlled the contest throughout the evening en route to a 4-0 win. The Warriors improved to 15-0-3 on the season and advanced to the Solon Division I district final against Twinsburg, which is scheduled for Thursday at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.
Hudson finished the season at 8-8-2.
Walsh head coach Dino McIntyre said the early strikes were key for the Warriors.
"Last year, we had nine shots on goal and seven corner kicks in the first half and didn’t get anything," he said. "I’m very excited with the way we played."
Hudson head coach Chris Gentille noted the omens were against his team from before kickoff Monday. Already without No. 1 goalkeeper Lily Morgan due to injury, Hudson goalie Mackenzie Pierce was unavailable for the game.
That meant freshman Emma Liesen was forced to start in goal, having never played goalie before.
"I would say Emma did a great job, for finding out on the field that she was going in net," Genitlle said. "On two of the goals, we didn’t help her by playing good defense. The other two, no goalie would have gotten them."
"Walsh came out and did what they had to do. We didn’t play our best and they wanted it."
In last year’s game, Hudson shut out the Warriors for more than 80 minutes. It took just four minutes for the Warriors to breach the goal this time.
Walsh midfielder Teah Haag served a long ball to the top of the penalty box. Midfielder Leah Smith ran onto the ball, rounded the keeper and put it home, making it 1-0 in the fourth minute.
Five minutes later, the Warriors doubled their advantage, thanks to a nice through ball from from Natalie Shimmel. Sophomore Margie Brown ran onto the ball and hit a high shot into the net to make it 2-0.
McIntyre said Shimmel and Gorski were threats throughout the evening, as Walsh played a bit more direct than usual.
"In the playoffs, you get a bit more nervous," McIntyre said. "We’re still playing the same style with three up top and three in the midfield. You just have to trust the girls and let them play."
The Explorers had a few opportunities to make a game of it and their best chance came in the 25th minute. With her little sister in net, Hudson junior Tori Liesen tried to hit the Warriors on the counterattacks.
The elder Liesen’s shot from outside the box arched over Walsh goalie Kiera Sarka, but clanged off the inside of the post and stayed out.
"We had a couple of chances," Gentille said. "If Tori hits that goal, it’s 2-1 and its a whole new game, at least for a minute."
Instead, it was the Warriors who picked up a third goal in the 29th minute. After Walsh’s initial shot was blocked, the loose ball bounced to Brown, who blasted home her second goal of the night into the roof of the net.
Walsh finished with a 12-5 edge in shots on goal. Sarka finished with four saves, while Liesen finished with eight saves.
Gorski was a constant menace to Hudson’s back line, as she pressured the Explorers into numerous turnovers in their own end.
"It’s the goal for every game, but [Monday], we executed well," Gorski said.
Gorski erased all doubt in the 50th minute, when she ran onto a long switch ball. The Warriors’ captain unleashed a perfect high shot, which flew into the upper right corner of the net.
McIntyre said his team would have to be on its best game when it plays Twinsburg.
"They’re hungry and they’re motivated," McIntyre said of the Tigers. "They’ve got a lot of strengths."
Hudson said goodbye to seniors Abby Kern (defender), Lily Morgan and Kierstin Havens (midfielder).
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC.