Groves' hat trick leads Hudson boys soccer past Hoover
HUDSON — With much of its starting lineup returning, Hudson boys soccer figured to have a strong team for the 2020 season.
The player who has made the biggest impact for the Explorers so far, however, is a rookie in navy blue and white.
Senior Quinn Groves has attended Hudson High School all four years, but he did not play for the Explorers until this fall. He concentrated on playing with the Cleveland Internationals academy program.
Ironically, the pandemic aided Groves' decision to join the Explorers.
"The academy league kind of shut down because of COVID," Groves said. "I had always wanted to play high school soccer. I knew we were going to have a good team this year."
Groves' integration into the Explorers' lineup has been seamless.
Groves picked up his second hat trick of the season Sept. 19 vs. North Canton Hoover, as he helped Hudson blow open a close game and run away with a 5-1 win at Hudson Memorial Stadium.
Hudson improved to 6-1 on the season, while Hoover dropped to 4-3-1.
Hudson coach Steve Knapp said his new attacking midfielder is a complete player.
"He just knows where he needs to be at all times," Knapp said. "When he gets in front of goal, you know he's going to be accurate."
Knapp noted, however, that Groves' precision was needed by Hudson against the Vikings. Despite the final score, Knapp felt his team under performed in the first half.
"The finish ball, that final ball for us, it isn't quite there," Knapp said. "We can do a lot of things well. We can keep the ball and move it around in the final third, but the killer instinct isn't quite there yet.
"Quinn had it in the second half," he added. "In the second half, things opened up for us."
Vikings coach Jon Zahn knew his team would be under pressure against the Explorers.
"We knew with the way they play — knocking the ball around, keeping possession — we had to be a bit more defensive than we usually are," Zahn said. "I think that's a very good team over there. They're where we want to be."
The first 37 minutes were pure frustration for the Explorers. Despite camping out in the Vikings' half of the field for long periods, Hudson was unable to find a goal, and Hoover made several dangerous counterattacks.
Knapp's chief frustration came on corner kicks. The Explorers had 20 corner kicks on the night, but they only got one goal from those set pieces.
"That's not good," Knapp said. "The thing was, the service [from the corners] was good. We just need to a better job getting on the end of it."
After banging on the door for the entire half, Hudson's 13th corner kick of the first half finally gave it a breakthrough.
A ball kicked into the six-yard box deflected of a defender, but Groves pounced, heading the ball into the net at point-blank range.
"I think we just needed to settle down and bit more patient on offense," Groves said. "I think we were the better team. We just needed to take our chances."
Hudson was made to rue its missed first-half chances, as Hoover found the equalizer just after halftime.
In the 44th minute, Hoover forward Carter Wensel stole the ball from a Hudson defender and sprinted on net. Wensel's high shot gave Explorer goalkeeper Matt Kaminski no chance, tying the match at 1-1.
"That's just not knowing the importance of a game situation," Knapp said. "Just knock it out. You have to take care of the ball when it's only a 1-0 game."
After Hoover's goal, however, Hudson was able to find its offense.
A brilliant run from sophomore Tyler Travis gave Hudson the lead back in the 49th minute.
Travis took the ball at the top of the box, split two Viking defenders and slid a low shot past Hoover keeper Rowan Ellis to make it 2-1.
Groves got his second goal off a bit of lucky bounce in the 63rd minute. A cross from Sean Durkin at the end line bounced off its intended target, but Groves ran on to the deflection and pumped it home.
Groves' third goal in the 72nd minute was the prettiest of the three. He danced around a pair of Viking defenders and slid a shot just inside the near post to make it 4-1.
Groves then assisted on Hudson's final goal a minute later, playing a square ball at the top of the box to Ben Hallis. The Explorers captain launched a rocket into the left side of net to complete the scoring.
Hudson finished with a 14-5 edge in shots on goal, as Kaminski finished with four saves.
Ellis finished with seven saves on the night after coming in midway through the first half, when Vikings starting goalie Chris Mullaly sustained a head injury.