Hudson-Jackson girls lacrosse rivalry offers early glimpse at potential postseason matchup

Ashley Bastock
Akron Beacon Journal
Jackson's Chelsea Debevec, left, and Hudson's Emily Ritenour eye down a loose ball during the second half of a lacrosse game, Thursday, April 8, 2021, in Hudson, Ohio.

It may be early in the high school girls lacrosse season, but on Thursday night Hudson and Jackson faced off in a rivalry game that has become the kind of regular-season contest both squads circle on their respective calendars. 

On this rainy night at Hudson Memorial Stadium, it was the visiting Polar Bears who were victorious and pulled away for a 16-8 win. 

"It doesn't matter what month we're playing them," Jackson coach John Kroah said. "It's one that we all look forward to no matter when we are playing them."

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For both teams this was the fourth game of the season, and both also now have identical 3-1 records.

But although regular-season matchups have become commonplace, the development of the rivalry is really one that hinges on the postseason.

Hudson's Riley Farber, center, makes a pass in traffic during the second half of a lacrosse game against Jackson Thursday.

Ever since the OHSAA took over the girls state tournament in 2017, Hudson and Jackson have met in each Division I regional final with a trip to the state final four on the line.

"I'm not a Cleveland native or a Hudson native, but when I came on to this program I knew Jackson was the competitor," Hudson coach Kyra Maludy said. "I think even starting from youth lacrosse, it's kind of always Jackson and Hudson that in the northern half of the state have the strongest teams. It's kind of just been Hudson and Jackson ingrained in the community even from the youth level. When it gets to high school it's just a little bit of extra blood and tears on the line.

"I think both of us know that we want to see what the other is throwing out there, and what's their weaknesses and strengths they have on the line, so that most likely when we see them in playoffs to get to the final four, it's 'What are we up against?' and 'How are we going to win?'"

In 2017, Jackson was a 12-4 victor in the Division I regional final game between the two schools en route to a state runner-up finish with a loss to Upper Arlington in the title game. 

Jackson's Chelsea Debevec, right, fires off a shot to score past Hudson's Sarah Lozina, left, and Kate Orazen during the first half Thursday.

Hudson got its revenge the following year, winning 12-10 and advancing state. The Explorers later fell to New Albany in a state semifinal.

Jackson picked up a nail-biter 11-10 win over the Explorers in 2019 before falling to New Albany in a state semifinal. There was no state tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

But even before the OHSAA took over the state tournament from the Ohio Schoolgirls Lacrosse Association, Kroah said postseason matchups between the two squads were common. 

"It's just the way the brackets work out," he said. "I don't know how many years it's been, but it feels like the last seven or so years — it's always been close games, and then the person who wins that one goes to the final four. So, awesome program, just a lot of respect for their program."

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Jackson jumped out to a big 11-2 lead in the first half of Thursday's game.

Hudson responded by outscoring the Polar Bears 6-5 in the second half, but it proved to be too much of a deficit to overcome for the Explorers, who never got closer than seven. 

"That's the one thing I love about these girls — they don't ever stop fighting," Maludy said. "Going into halftime we just kind of said that first half was not Hudson lacrosse. We talked right before about this being a game of inches and every inch on this field had to be a Hudson inch. We said in the first half it was a lot of Jackson on the field, it looked like a lot of Jackson inches." 

Jackson got five goals from Riley Floyd, four apiece from Chelsea Debevec and Annise Berkeley, two from Allie Hartnett and one from Kenzie Adams.

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Peyton Farley and Maggie Murray each scored two goals for Hudson. Emily Ritenour, Riley Farber, Jamison Cart and Ryan St. Pierre added one apiece. 

For Jackson, the win was not only a confidence-builder going forward, but also helps it bounce back after losing 16-10 to Upper Arlington last week. 

"It's the momentum that we needed," Kroah said. "We had three games coming into this — we played UA last Saturday and took a little bit of a beating. We had something to prove tonight, not just to each other but ourselves." 

For Hudson, it's about looking to move forward and learn lessons from the loss in order to have some postseason success.

"When we play our best games is when we have patience on the offensive end of the field," Maludy said. "I think in the first half we just rushed it a little too much. ... You have to sometimes control the clock and kill a few minutes, and in the high-school level there's not a shot clock so we have the luxury of time and just need to take it.

"Off the draws, we work really hard with our draws, and this is definitely going to be a lot of film to review and work even harder on our draws, as well as our defense. We're trying out a few different things with our defense and still perfecting that."