HUDSON — She is the leader of a ridiculously talented field hockey squad.

She also could be considered the team’s matriarch.

When it comes to second-year Hudson head coach Louise Knox, the competition plays only a small role in her lengthy list of tasks regarding a certain group of teenagers.

Yes, Knox urges her players to utilize their sticks to the best of their abilities. However, she’s far more preoccupied with their well-being.

Are they getting enough sleep? Are they attending all of their classes? And most importantly, are they appreciating the rest of their field hockey family members every time they pick up their sticks?

These time-consuming duties are part of Knox’s life 24-7. She wouldn’t want it any other way.

"I care about them," Knox said. "Every fall, I talk about getting 22 daughters. I still communicate with former players, so they’re part of the field hockey family for life. As that saying goes, ‘Tradition never graduates.’"

As always, the Explorers lit up most of their opponents during the fall. Hudson finished as the runner-up in the always challenging Northeast Ohio Field Hockey League and made another impressive run in the postseason.

But this wasn’t a walk in the park by any means.

No family has ever escaped the harsh realities of what comes with everyday life. Even the close-knit Explorers’ ménage was no different.

"We’ve had some adversity this season," Knox said. "It showed the strength of what a group of young athletes can do together when they stick together. They really care about the game, but they also know there’s a bigger picture."

This message includes their heartbreaking season finale.

Hudson will not be making its second consecutive trip to the Final Four after losing to Shaker Heights 3-0 Saturday at Western Reserve Academy.

The Red Raiders, led by University of Michigan commit Lora Clarke, dominated the Explorers from start to finish.

Of course, such a brutal fact wasn’t particularly important to Knox and Co. after the match.

"Their relationships will stand stronger than the outcome of this game," she said. "I know this isn’t the outcome that they wanted, but the friendships developed and the lessons learned through the challenges we’ve had this season, will carry them far in life."

Regardless of how "far in life" they go, the players always will be welcome in Knox’s household.

For Knox, she fully embraces this statement when it comes to her duties as the field hockey team’s materfamilias: "A mother is your first friend, your best friend, your forever friend."

"Win or lose, they’re very important to me," Knox said. "They always will be. Whether it’s on the field or off the field, I’ll be their biggest cheerleader and I’ll be there for them in whatever role I need to be."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @FrankAceto_RPC.