Hudson boys soccer overcomes tenacious effort from Nordonia

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Hudson junior Mike Kane gets his head to the ball ahead of Nordonia's Sean Joyce during the Explorers' 4-0 win at Nordonia Sept. 15.

Hudson and Nordonia boys soccer have different expectation levels within their programs.

Hudson's eyes are fixed on making runs at the conference and district titles, while finishing above .500 would mark a successful season for the Knights.

Thus, it was no surprise that the Explorers were the favorites when they paid a visit to Boliantz Stadium Sept. 15 for a Suburban League National Conference showdown.

For the first 35 minutes, Nordonia gave Hudson everything it can handle. After that, the Explorers' class was able to shine through.

Hudson had to work for it before eventually scoring a 4-0 win over a scrappy Nordonia side. Hudson improved to 5-1, 3-0 in the National Conference, while Nordonia dropped to 2-5, 0-3 in the conference.

The Explorers' attack seemed to come in waves throughout the night, but Nordonia appeared ready for it. The Knights defense was up to the challenge for most of the first half, which seemed to frustrate Hudson a bit.

"Anytime that you create that many chances and you don't score, the pressure builds up," said Hudson coach Steve Knapp. "To get that first goal before the half really allowed us to settle down. Getting the second goal allowed us to just play our game."

Although Nordonia was under pressure for most of the game, Knapp commended the Knights for not just playing bunker defense.

"I really like the style of play they used," Knapp said. "They had a game plan and were able to to stick to it."

Nordonia coach Derek Mercer said Hudson was "absolutely" the best team his squad had faced all year.

Nordonia captain Steve Kocab gets his head to the ball during the Knights' 4-0 home loss to Hudson Sept. 15 at Boliantz Stadium.

"Hudson is a high quality team. They've got quality one through 11 in their lineup and some good players coming off the bench," Mercer said. "We knew what they were bringing.

"We defended extremely well for the first half hour," Mercer added.

While Hudson finished with a 16-1 edge in shots on goal, it was the Knights who had the game's first scoring chance.

Off a counterattack, Nordonia forward Tyler Edgehouse ran onto a ball into the Hudson penalty area. Edgehouse headed toward goal, but was thwarted by a leg save from Hudson goaltender Stephen Yerian.

"If we put that it, its a whole different ballgame," Mercer said.

The Knights would have a few more counterattacks in the first half, but Hudson's possession game kept the Explorers in the Knights in for most of the contest.

Although he let in four goal, Nordonia goaltender Will Busse drew praise from Mercer, as Busse finished with 12 saves on the night.

"He definitely kept us in the game, especially in that first half," Mercer said. "I felt like it was his best performance of the season. Our defense has to play a little bit better."

"We were creating a lot of chance and we're not valuing those chances," Knapp said.

Just when it looked like Busse would help get Nordonia to a 0-0 halftime score, Hudson found the breakthrough in the 37th minute.

Hudson captain Peter Strawbridge fed a ball to Quinn Groves, who charged up from the midfield and placed a shot just between Busse and the left post to make it 1-0.

"The timing of that goal was pretty big for us." Knapp said.

Hudson would double its advantage with just 27.5 seconds left on the first half clock. Tyler Travis send a quick ball into the box, which Groves redirected into the net, making it 2-0 at the half.

The Knights attempted to seize the initiative after the half, but were unable to get any shots off in the second half.

Meanwhile, Hudson kept coming and found its third goal in the 57th minute. A pass from Nassar Tahat allowed Ben Hopkins to run down the right side, beat his defense and place a shot in the lower left corner.

Hopkins would provide the assist on Hudson's final goal, as he set up Ben Hallis for a goal after scramble for the ball i nthe box.

"I thought we were pretty good in the middle of the field the entire night," Knapp said. "The buildup was excellent. We just needed to do a better job finishing those chances."

Mercer noted his defense may have been worn down but Hudson's constant attacks.

"We don't have the depth they do," Mercer said. "We've got guys that substitute up top, but not so much on the back line. They probably ended up getting gassed as time went on."