Although the Thomas Worthington High School field hockey team's three-year reign as state champion ended with a 2-1 loss (3-2 in penalty strokes) to Hudson in a state semifinal Nov. 2 at Upper Arlington, coach Terri Simonetti Frost could not be prouder of her program.

"In the history of high school field hockey, no program has ever enjoyed a senior class like this one," said Simonetti Frost, whose team finished 18-2 overall. "Unfortunately, they weren't able to finish as seniors and become the first team in the state to win four consecutive state titles.

"But they went 77-5-1 and advanced to state every year. They're great athletes, they're incredibly smart in the classroom and they loved their community service projects. They are true leaders and very kind-hearted young ladies. It was an incredible run."

Against Hudson, senior attacker Sarah Charley scored just a little over four minutes into the contest, but the Cardinals were unable to capitalize on other scoring chances in the first half. Hudson's Caroline Ford tied the game at 1 with 23:09 left in regulation and neither team scored in the two 10-minute overtime periods, during which the teams played seven-on-seven.

Charley was awarded a penalty stroke during the second overtime, but was stopped by Hudson goalkeeper Sadie Mrakuzic.

In the best-of-five penalty strokes, Hudson took a 2-0 lead as Margaret Murray and Ford scored against senior goalie Isabelle Perese and Mrakuzic stopped shots from Charley and senior midfielder Althea Chan.

Senior midfielder/defender Reilly Ford and sophomore midfielder Mollie Estepp then scored for Thomas and Perese stopped one of the next two shooters as Hudson held a 3-2 advantage entering the fifth round. The Explorers secured the win when the Cardinals failed to score on their fifth attempt.

The Cardinals, who had beaten Hudson 3-1 on Sept. 15, began their state championship streak by beating the Explorers 3-0 in the 2015 state final.

Thomas, which advanced to state by beating Kilbourne 7-1 in a district final Oct. 27 at Olentangy Liberty, won the Central Ohio Field Hockey League-West Division title at 8-0, ahead of runner-up Liberty (7-1).

The Cardinals' other loss came against Columbus Academy, 4-0 on Sept. 26. The Vikings beat Hudson 3-0 in the state final Nov. 3.

Thomas is losing nine seniors, led by all-state honorees Charley, Perese and midfielder Rachel Rinaldi. Other senior starters were Chan, Ford, defender Izzy Flint-Gonzalez and attackers Julia Scharff and Anneliese Sinclair.

The Cardinals expect to return three starters in Estepp, sophomore attacker Bella Avila and freshman defender Cora Hamilton.

"We are going to be very young and very inexperienced the next couple of years," Simonetti Frost said. "But we have a good system. We'll see how hungry and how mentally tough these girls coming back are and see about the new girls moving up.

"It's tough to replace seniors with 13-, 14- and 15-year-old girls. But imagine trying to replace Charley, Perese and Rinaldi. We will be adjusting and rebuilding. But if the girls buy in and put in the hard work, maybe we can continue the legacy. But it'll only happen with hard work."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek