Hudson defeated St. John's Jesuit in the first game of the season, and that's a good thing as the Titans prepare to meet the unbeaten and second-ranked Explorers in a Division I state soccer semifinal at 7 tonight at Cleveland State University.
‘‘We're not the same team,” said coach Mark DelVerne, who, in his fifth season, has led the Titans (12-2-6) to the school's first berth in the soccer Final 4. ‘‘We're deeper and healthier, and we have a set lineup now.
‘‘If Hudson comes out and plays its best game, I'll be surprised. They beat us 3-0 this year and 4-2 last year. I don't know how they could have any respect for us.”
‘‘I don't want to say they'll be overconfident, but in some ways they almost have to be looking past us,” said Ryan Seal, one of three senior captains along with fellow defenseman Brad Toth and forward Pete Phillips.
‘‘We're a Cinderella team. They thought there'd be a tougher team coming out of this regional. I think that could work to our advantage.”
St. John's edged Medina 2-1 in the regional semifinal and defending state runner-up Perrysburg 1-0 in the final.
‘‘We really didn't have a set lineup at all,” said Phillips of the Titans' earlier meeting with Hudson. ‘‘We're not scared. They don't know what we have to offer.”
For the record, what the Titans have to offer is a terrific defense, one assembled with two players, Seal and Toth, who are better suited to playing midfield and/or forward, DelVerne said, ‘‘but they sacrificed recognition for the good of the team.”
The independent Titans have posted 10 shutouts this season while outscoring the opposition - some of Ohio's best teams - 39-15.
Ben Phillips, Pete's sophomore brother, has done a fine job in goal, DelVerne said, though, in reality, the defensemen and midfielders have kept much of the play away from the net.
‘‘He'll make one huge save a game to keep us in it,” DelVerne said. ‘‘Ben's kept us in some games long enough for us to get the win. He's a fabulous goalie.”
And Hudson (18-0-2), which returns 14 players from the team that lost to Perrysburg in last year's state semifinals, has a fabulous offense. It's scoring almost three goals a game, according to coach Michael Payne.
The Explorers' 13 shutouts and eight goals allowed don't have so much to do with a strong defense, he said, as the fact that Hudson has simply controlled play in the opposition's end. It beat Lakewood St. Edward 5-0 in the regional finals.
Leading the way is senior Taylor Finseth, who has scored 24 goals and added eight assists.
The winner of tonight's game will face the winner of the game between Cincinnati St. Xavier (15-1-6) and third-ranked defending state champ Thomas Worthington (18-0-3).
St. John's fans may follow the Hudson game at 7 p.m. on a link from the school's Web site: www.sjjtitans.org/web/ tsbn.html