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4A girls soccer: Time runs out on Hudson's stellar season

EUSTIS — The duo had been teammates since seventh grade.

Katy McGee and Jessica Imbimbo were best friends, seemingly inseparable.

They watched each other's backs — in sport and in life.

The realization of Hudson's 5-1 loss to Eustis in a Class 4A region final Friday set in rather quickly. The pair met at midfield and shared one final, tearful embrace as teammates.

Graduation is only a few months away.

"When we shared that hug it was like, 'Thank you for being one of the best teammates,' " Imbimbo said. "… She saved my butt as many times as I've saved hers."

Said McGee, fighting off tears, "You play for each other. You feel like you let each other down."

Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Hudson (17-4-1) was led by five seniors and had a season that caught the North Suncoast off-guard. It was capped by the program's first region final berth. In the process, the Cobras defeated Mitchell two out of three tries and avenged a loss to River Ridge to advance to Friday's game.

Hudson played Friday without emotional defender Stacy Swezey, who walked the sideline with a torn meniscus and did her best to motivate with her voice.

Her absence was evident as Eustis (25-3-1) used its speed to pepper the back with opportunities.

The first goal came on a two-on-one knocked in by Eustis forward Brooke Smith for a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.

Hudson answered three minutes later after Logan McGee stole the ball from a Eustis defender, turned and fired to tie it.

In the second half, Eustis took a 2-1 lead on a goal by forward Alika Keene. The Panthers scored six minutes later after Imbimbo was caught out of position and Tana Hardin found the empty net for a 3-1 lead.

Hudson's hopes for a comeback all but ended when Keene was pulled down from behind, awarding Hudson a penalty shot and penalizing Hudson defender Jill Simmons with a red card with 22 minutes to play.

Keene scored for a 4-1 lead, and with one fewer defender Hudson faced a daunting task.

Eustis forward Erica DeLuca cast the final blow, making it 5-1 and marking the third consecutive time Eustis would end Hudson's postseason.

"It's an exhilarating ride," Cobras first-year coach Stephen Jones said. "They're a great group of kids. I have no regrets. I'm proud of every one of them."

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4A girls soccer: Time runs out on Hudson's stellar season 02/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 5, 2010 10:15pm]
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