HUDSON — The disbelief was evident on Hudson's sideline.
The Cobras looked indestructible early Tuesday, going up two games against Nature Coast. Then the Sharks dug in with some razor sharp plays to take Games 3 and 4 convincingly to force a final game.
Hudson, which had lost just two games during a 10-game winning streak entering the match, was facing a fifth game for the first time since September.
This was the Cobras' chance to show some teeth.
They did, taking the five-game match 25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 16-25, 15-6 in Class 4A, Region 3. The win advances Hudson to a region final for the first time since 2004, when the Cobras made the state final four.
"My heart is going a 150 miles an hour," Hudson first-year coach Shayna Munson said after the teams traded handshakes. "…It's tough from here on out. Whoever we face it's going to be difficult. This was a good test for us."
Nature Coast (21-9) rolled in with power hitters Alex Livengood and Courtney Liddle. Hudson senior Jessica Imbimbo plays on Livengood's club team and respected her ability to crank kills at will.
Imbimbo teamed up with several Cobras for dual blocks to neutralize Livengood, while taking their chances with Liddle.
Though Livengood got her kills and Liddle thrived, it was a pivotal strategy as many more of Livengood's attempts were kept alive instead of crushed deep into the hardwood.
"We knew she was a big swinger and a big hitter," Imbimbo said. "We had to put up a big block."
Livengood finished with 21 kills in her final high school match. Liddle had 26.
"I was a little upset," Livengood said. "I kind of found some ways to go around it like tipping. I really couldn't do anything. …They had the bigger blockers on me."
A deep roster was again key again for Hudson. At any given time, the Cobras had at least five players on the floor worthy of starring on any team in the North Suncoast.
Cobras senior Katy McGee led the way with 11 kills and 11 blocks. Cara Carley had 10 kills, Imbimbo had nine and Cobras libero Jessica Christianson had 15 digs.
"We had the home crowd and we had the intensity," Imbimbo said. "We just had to put it all together. We wanted it."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 421-3886.