Glue to the Pack midfield

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS

 

By DAVID CUCCHIARA

Washington Daily News

Head coach Ed Rodriguez calls her the most underrated player on his roster. Her teammates call her “mom.” But it’s her raw talent, speed and technical footwork that have opponents calling her unstoppable.

She is the most important cog in the Pam Pack soccer team’s well-oiled machine, and it’s no secret why Rodriguez named midfielder Harley Hudson one of three captains at the inception of the 2014 girls soccer season.

“Harley knows what to do, knows how to cross the ball, find gaps and is a great leader,” Rodriguez said. “We’re a different team when she’s not there.”

With young talent like sophomores Isabella Mayo and Rylee Anderson and freshman Sydney Lewis in the midfield, as well as the return and full athletic maturation of standout senior Alana Jefferson, Rodriguez decided to change the old system to a 4-4-2 formation heavily dependent on the midfield. What he didn’t envision was the production he’d be getting from the wing position.

“It took us about three games to get an understanding of where each player needed to be,” Rodriguez said. “It wasn’t until the fourth game of the season that we really got it together well.

“Harley is an important part of the midfield. She’s always running, always trying to find the gap, always taking shots. She has a very good work ethic.”

Hudson, who has scored 14 goals this season, including three in Washington’s two postseason games, has made her money – hypothetically, of course – in the passing game. More skillful than any of her teammates in this area, she comes with the ability to lay perfect crosses from any wing position precisely in front of the net, allowing her teammates to capitalize.

The result?

The Pam Pack have scored a total of 160 goals this season, most generated from the midfield. Jefferson, who is headed to Queens College in Charlotte to play soccer in the fall, has tallied a career-high 33 goals and senior striker Christian Heggie, well, is tied for first in the state in scoring with 52 goals.

“I don’t think she owes us anything,” said Hudson, referring to Heggie’s historic goal-scoring streak. “We all work as a team. We pass her the ball, she takes the shot and is the most accurate out of all of us. I know if I pass it to her in front of the net, she’ll make it.”

For Hudson to be the distributor on offense, toughness is a prerequisite, a trait she has showcased this season. During the final second of Washington’s match up against Kinston, Hudson bolted for a ball in front of the net, subsequently colliding with a Vikings’ defenseman.

“Me and this girl were both going for the ball and we collided,” Hudson said. “I fell flat on my arm and her body rolled right over top of me.”

Injuring her shoulder on the play, she had to be carried off the field and later received medical attention.

Two days later, she was back on the pitch for an out-of-conference game against North Lenoir, where she notched a goal and an assist.

As Washington moves deeper into the state playoffs and faces stronger competition, Rodriguez is going to rely on that toughness and those timely crosses to propel the Pack to their first Class 2-A State Championship.

“Quickness in the midfield is what makes this team so good,” Rodriguez said. “A lot of them have played at least three years together, so everyone knows where to go and where to be.”