Hudson (Ohio) Doesn't Mind Being a Target

By Eric S. Smith

It's there. You can't see it and it doesn't weigh anything, but the lacrosse team from Hudson High School in Ohio is aware of it. So, too, are their opponents.

In fact every team in northeast Ohio knows about it. The Explorers are the No. 7 team in Ohio according to LaxPower, but they are the perennial power in the northeast region. In fact, Hudson has won the northeast region four consecutive times.

But with all that success, they can't shake it. In fact, their success just makes it bigger.

So what is it?

A target.

"Every team in northeast Ohio has a target on us," Hudson head coach David Blue said. "Everybody gives it their all against us, and so if we don't play our best every time out, somebody is going to beat us. Eventually that will happen."

But it isn't very often that the Explorers lose. In fact, in Blue's 14 years at the helm, Hudson is an astounding 174-65. That means that with Blue patrolling the sidelines, the Explorers win nearly 73 percent of their games.

"Longevity has a lot to do with the success of our program," Blue said. "We have a system and expectations in place, and that makes it easier for kids to fit into that."

This year, Hudson is off to a 6-2 start and has the help of some outstanding talent. The team begins with senior All-State goalie Andrew Hoelzel and his ability to make plays. The Explorers also have a tremendous defense led by Griffin Vehar (6-foot-2, 230 pounds). The size continues in the midfield with Bobby Tyler (6-2, 170) and face-off specialist Ryan Altenhausen (6-3, 220).

"I would prefer to play more of a finesse style," Blue said, "but we have some guys who can really knock people around."

That ability to play physical is a key, when every other team seems to be gunning for you. But while Hudson has been dominant in the northeast part of the state, it has yet to capture a state championship. The championship teams still tend to come from the Columbus area.

"Having a major college program like Ohio State in your backyard is a key," said Blue, who played for the Buckeyes during college. "The kids get to see major lacrosse on a weekly basis. In our area, we just can't do that as easily."

Plus, the temperamental weather in northeast Ohio makes the first few weeks of the season very difficult. The Explorers have to deal with ice and snow more than the central and southern parts of the state do. Blue says that the weather puts northeastern teams about two weeks behind the competition in the early part of the season.

"When it warms up here and begins to dry out, things get better," Blue said. "The month of May (historically) has been good for us."

Another problem that is unique to Hudson and the growth of its lacrosse program is its neighbor. Right in the town of Hudson, Ohio, sits the Western Reserve Academy. Western Reserve is a prestigious private school that has one of the best lacrosse teams in the entire Midwest.

"Last year, it wasn't as much of a problem." Blue said of losing players to WRA. "But about five years ago when Western Reserve changed its lacrosse philosophy it was a problem. They were recruiting kids out of our middle schools.

"You develop a kid through the youth program and you want them to wear your jersey some. That happens 95 percent of the time. But there are certainly a lot of factors that go into the decision about which school to play at. But they can offer things we can't, and I think we offer things they can't."

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2009-04-30



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