Getting on the field at last, Hudson boys soccer shows early quality

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Hudson's Tyler Travis makes a move during the Explorers' 4-1 win over Uniontown Lake Aug. 29 at Hudson Memorial Stadium. The game was Hudson's season opener.

After a long preseason devoid of scrimmages, Hudson boys soccer had to feel good just getting a chance to play someone besides themselves.

Explorers coach Steve Knapp made it clear his players were eager to play against anyone.

"Especially the first game, it was really a fun one, just because it was new," Knapp said. "It was just a really cool atmosphere. You could really tell that the boys were ready."

Hudson took out its nervous energy on Uniontown Lake, as the Explorers ground out a 4-1 win over the Blue Streak Aug. 29 at Hudson Memorial Stadium.

The Explorers followed that victory with a win in their Suburban League American Conference opener, scoring a 2-1 win over Wadsworth Sept. 1 at Art Wright Stadium.

Although Hudson dominated the game vs. Lake in terms of statistics and possession, Knapp said the Blue Streaks presented a solid first test.

"I thought Uniontown Lake was very good. I think they were very physical against us," Knapp said. "They were big, strong and they had some kids that can play soccer on all three levels.

"Playing them the last four years, I think this was their best team," he added. "We probably had 75% of the ball, but I think that was Lake's plan as well. They stayed back."

Hudson finished with a 15-3 edge in shots on goal and a 10-2 edge in corner kicks.

Hudson Caleb Junko attempts a shot through the legs of a Uniontown Lake player during the Explorers' 4-1 home win over Lake Aug. 29.

"We created a lot of chances," Knapp said. "[Lake] made the most of their opportunity in the first half. I think it was still a very good game, They were very disciplined on defense."

Hudson led 2-1 at halftime after the two teams combined for a three-goal fury midway through the first half.

In the first 20 minutes, Hudson midfielder Ben Hallis had a ball trickle to him off a corner kick. Hallis sent a perfect shot in to the top corner of the net from 22 yards out to make it 1-0.

On Lake's ensuing possession, however, a ball over the top allowed Lake's Michael Giganti to get behind Hudson's defense. Giganti's shot was redirected in by Lake's Michael Radonjich to tie the game.

"We needed to be tighter defensively," Knapp said.

However, Lake's defense returned the favor in the 26th minute, when a miscue allowed Hudson's Ben Hopkins to go one-on-one with Lake's keeper and put it home for a 2-1 lead.

Hudson put the game away with a quickfire double starting in the 60th minute. Hudson midfielder Quinn Groves created the third goal by beating his man on the sideline, sprinting into the box and getting cut down, drawling a penalty kick.

Hudson forward Pete Strawbridge converted the PK with a shot to the low right corner.

Groves then completed the scoring in the 63rd minute when Hopkins won the ball and Hallis slid the ball to Groves at the top of the box.

"He hit a nice shot in from there,. It was a pretty goal," Knapp said.

Hudson was able to empty its bench from there. Goalkeepers Stephen Yerian and Matt Kaminski each had one save for the Explorers.

Knapp said the game with Wadsworth presented a bit of a curveball to his team.

"We were expecting a more physical game," Knapp said. "We had a lot of time and space on the ball, particularly in the first half. That was surprising because it's a smaller field there than at ours.

"I thought they were very good. We created about nine or 10 really good chances in the first, but just couldn't put anything away. I think the second half was a little bit more even."

Hudson won thanks to a pair of brilliant goals from Hallis on either side of halftime.

"Six minutes in, Ben took a touch from about 35 yards out and hit a laser into the top corner," Knapp said. "it was an absolute beauty."

However, Wadsworth would equalize in the 32nd minute off a free kick. The Grizzlies' Kam Wagner sent the ball into the box, which Austin Batey headed home.

"Our goalie was going one way and he sent it the other way," Knapp said.

The match stayed tied at 1-1 until the 60th minute when Groves sent a through ball between the Grizzlies' center backs.

Hallis ran onto the ball and chipped it over Wadsworth keeper Alex Lazzarretti for the winning goal.

Lazzarretti finished with four saves to Yerian's three, as Hudson finished with a 7-3 edge in shots on goal. However, Knapp noted Hudson had problems hitting the target, as it finished with an 18-4 edge in total shots.

"Give a credit to Wadsworth's defense," Knapp said. "It wasn't for lack of effort and lack of chance on our part, but we hit a lot ball right to goalkeeper or off the post. We were our own worst enemy. We mad very good runs, but the finished product wasn't there."

Hudson hits the road to Medina Sept. 5 at 7 p.m. before traveling to Brecksville-Broadview Heights Sept. 8 at 7 p.m.