HUDSON — Most soccer fanatics would say that a wealth of substitutes is a necessary part of any successful team, but a local youth soccer team is wrapping up a winning season without the help of a big depth chart.
The Hudson U18/19 Lady Cobras came into the season with only 11 players. After the defending Orange Classic champions lost their opening match of the new season, things looked bleak. But the desire of the players and the coach to save the season led them to recruit new players and turn things around.
"At one point I was really scared we weren't going to be able to play this year," coach Chris Swezey said. "Our first game we had an injury and a player got carded, and we played with nine players the entire time. The girls kept assuring me that we were going to get more players, but I had my doubts. I told them we had to get to 13 players and they did what they had to do to find players that could come in and contribute."
After acquiring three new senior players and one that is playing above her age group from clubs that were unable to field U18 teams, Swezey brought the players together despite the fact that they had played against each other their entire lives.
"I honestly would have taken anybody," Swezey said. "The girls we got in had been our opponent for years, but our girls aren't clique-y and they wanted it to work, so they made the transition easy for the girls. To say that we were fortunate to get the players we got is an understatement."
The Lady Cobras offer some of the new players something better than what they'd experienced with their former clubs. Nicole Misener, 15, played against Hudson last year, but after the core of her West Pasco team broke up, she landed with her old rivals.
"It brought fun back into the game for her," Misener's mother Barbara said. "I think it has to do with Chris. He lets the girls play their way and figure it out. The pressure isn't there and she's allowed to enjoy the game. This is our first year with Chris but we really think he's phenomenal and we like the team."
For the players, the frightening start to the season served as an extra motivator.
"A lot of the girls pulled together and got people to come in and help," midfielder Michelle Lang said. "We knew we were going to have to practice a lot but we tried to make the new players feel welcome and bring it together. I graduated high school, so this is my last year that I'll get to play. It would have been really disappointing if we hadn't been able to get enough players together."
After the rough start the girls have climbed the league standings and could finish in second place. The team will lose a good percentage of its players after this season, but Swezey is confident they can get players from elsewhere to help fill the void.
"I've got some new players who have siblings that want to play up a year or two for us," Swezey said. "I think we'll be okay with some of the new girls we've got, and as far as this year goes, I'm excited about the team we have and our chances of repeating what we've been able to do in the past."