Hudson has unfinished business to take care of

Ellie Yaeger, left, Avery Johnson and Grace O’Brien were sophomores on the Hudson softball team’s 2019 Big Rivers Conference championship team. Now they’re being tasked with providing the senior leadership the Raiders will need to go after another conference title. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

Unfinished business.

That was the slogan the Hudson softball team adopted heading into the 2020 season after winning its first undisputed Big Rivers Conference championship and advancing to the regional final in 2019.

But the 2020 season never happened. So it’s only natural that this year’s squad is keeping “Unfinished Business” as its theme for 2021.

The Raiders went a perfect 12-0 against BRC foes in 2019 (15-5 overall) to win the conference title outright for the first time in school history. They previously shared the honor with Eau Claire Memorial in 1992 and Chippewa Falls in 2016.

After a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Wisconsin Rapids in the regional final they immediately set their sights on a deeper postseason run in 2020. But the team, including its four seniors, never got the chance due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was really hard to have that whole group of seniors and not have a season,” Hudson coach Jim Revoir said. “I really felt bad for them because I think it was a chance to do something extra special. I think we were poised for that after going undefeated the year before. There were a lot of expectations, not only from the coaching staff but from the girls, to do something special. And to not have that chance, my heart really hurt for them.”

Ellie Yaeger, Avery Johnson and Grace O’Brien were sophomores on that 2019 conference championship team. Now they’re the only three seniors this year as the Raiders look to pick up where they left off.

“It's honestly really weird, I'm not gonna lie,” Yaeger said. “Last time we did this we were underclassmen and we were just trying to follow the lead of everybody else; we weren't asked for any leadership. But this year we stepped in and now we're captains and it's kind of crazy that people are now looking up to us. But it's really fun and I'm glad to be back.”

Revoir said there were more questions than usual leading up to the season after missing an entire year, but any concerns he had were quickly allayed once the team started workouts.

“We're down to three seniors who've been part of the varsity squad before, and yes, I was a little nervous coming into the season not knowing the makeup of the freshmen, sophomores and juniors, the kids we've never seen before,” he noted. “But it’s a testament to the girls and how hard they work to be part of this program and, and softball in general. We have a group of girls here with amazing talent that came into the gym and I just stood there kind of in awe.”

Johnson and O’Brien were both first team All-BRC picks as sophomores, along with junior Sydney Gabriel, who had a breakout year as a freshman in 2019. Unfortunately O’Brien will be sidelined for the season after having surgery in January for a knee injury suffered during the basketball season. But that won’t stop her from contributing to the senior leadership the team needs.

“I'll definitely be coaching a lot more this year,” she said. “I do that every year but it'll be my focus this year. Because I can’t demonstrate intensity I’ll be more vocal about teaching the younger girls about the mental side of the game and helping them with things like form.”

The Raiders are scheduled to open up the 2021 season with a BRC contest at home against River Falls Tuesday, April 27, at 5 p.m. at Grandview Park. And Johnson said she was “super excited.”

“I thought last year we would have had a really good chance to have a good season and maybe go to state,” she said. “But I definitely think that this is a really good group of girls. It was sad we didn't get a junior season, but I think this will be a great year. We're still the conference champions, and we still have the unfinished business of making it to state.”

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