NEW PORT RICHEY — They have the look of confidence — and hunger.
Hudson's desire is to continue on a victorious path paved the past few seasons, to prove the doubters wrong. Another 2-0 girls soccer victory Monday night at Gulf only strengthened the Cobras' case.
That on the heels of last week's stellar effort to knock off rival Mitchell for the first time in three years.
It has all happened in the wake of replacing five seniors and getting a new coach.
And as the winning streak continues — currently nine games — the doubters begin to fade.
"As far as we can possibly go is how far we want to go," senior Stacey Swezey said. "We want to go all the way, and I think that's how everyone else feels, too."
None of the pieces seemed to lock together early on.
Hudson's search to replace coach Christine Rizzieri was not complete until just before the season's start. Some Cobras felt they had already fallen behind because schools had begun preparations almost before Stephen Jones was hired.
Hudson's volleyball team had a postseason run to the state final four, leaving the Cobras down four key players, including starting keeper Jessica Imbimbo and sweeper Katy McGee.
Through the first four games, Hudson lost to Mitchell and River Ridge and tied Pasco, its lone win coming against Sunlake.
That stretch seemed foreign to a group that had been part of back-to-back 20-win seasons. Under Rizzieri's guidance, the Cobras compiled a 59-14-4 record in three seasons with three consecutive playoff berths, including last year's region semifinal appearance — a first in program history.
This year's team felt confident it could continue winning despite losing Rizzieri.
"Coaches do a lot but you have to do a lot to prepare yourself individually," midfielder Alicia Schuering said. "A lot of the seniors have been playing together since middle school. Some of us play on a club team together so we have chemistry."
Schuering leads the Cobras with 15 goals and five assists. And when those volleyball players returned, so did the chemistry.
Hudson has been on a tear, picking up wins against Springstead, Gulf (twice) and most notably Mitchell (10-1-1).
"That would be our high point," Swezey said of defeating the Mustangs. "Our soccer team has only beat Mitchell one other time in our school's history. … It's been a big thing to us."
Behind it all is Jones.
As luck would have it, Jones had his resume filed in case a coaching position opened. So when the Hudson job officially became available, he was in position to accept.
Jones, who turns 24 Friday, is a local and played his final two years of high school at Hudson. Most recently, he was a referee in local high school games. He was familiar with Hudson's girls because his younger sister, Kristyn, graduated last year.
"I never had the experience of coaching them before," Jones said. "There was a little bit of an adjustment. I try to take a very professional stance to the game."
The transition, the girls say, has been seamless.
"He's awesome, good guy," Swezey said. "Everyone loves him. He gets along with all the girls. He's definitely a good game coach. He knows how to make all the right calls."
Izzy Gould can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 421-3886.