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During year of change, Cobras volleyball finds comfort zone

Seniors Cara Carley, left, and Katy McGee lead a team on a 12-match win streak. “We’ve grown stronger,” Carley says.

KERI WIGINTON | Times

Seniors Cara Carley, left, and Katy McGee lead a team on a 12-match win streak. “We’ve grown stronger,” Carley says.

HUDSON — The smooth wheels of practice began to churn.

A couple of laps around the volleyball court Tuesday afternoon, some stretching, a few sprints up and down the hardwood floor. The routines are second nature at this point, as familiar as their movements in a match.

Any friction from the offseason coaching change, or the internal chemistry issues that prompted a team meeting, have long been resolved.

All that stands between the Cobras and a berth in the 4A state title game is Jensen Beach. Friday's match marks Hudson's first trip to Lakeland since 2004. There were roadblocks along the way.

It began with an unexpected coaching change.

Former coach Linda McQuade stepped aside after 19 seasons, 12 playoff berths and three state final fours. That included a second-place finish in 2000. McQuade said then that she stepped aside to gain more free time. That left the Cobras in a precarious position.

After few potential replacements surfaced, Hudson landed Shayna Munson. She had extensive volleyball knowledge as a professional, at Eastern Michigan and thanks to playing in four state finals during high school. Munson played for Temperance Bedford (Mich.) from 1996-99. She had nine kills and seven digs in a 1998 Class A state title victory against Portage Northern.

Coaching brought on different challenges.

Often unflappable, Munson was so nervous before Saturday's five-game win at Ocala Vanguard she had an assistant write out the starting lineup.

"I was shaking so bad," Munson said. "I would feel a lot better if I was in uniform. Being in uniform relaxes me."

As a coach, she has a direct style similar to her predecessor. In huddles during game breaks, Munson addresses problems head on.

"She doesn't avoid the stuff we've done wrong," senior Katy McGee said. "She tells us how to improve. … We were afraid we would have a coach that didn't know what she was doing. … It worked fine."

One turning point came after Hudson was pressed in a five-game win at Springstead in September. Hudson senior Cara Carley said there was some bickering between girls that resulted in a team meeting. McQuade returned to help sort out the mess.

Since Sept. 15, the Cobras have won 20 of 21 matches, including a 12-match win streak.

"We weren't bonding," Carley said after the close victory against the Eagles. "There was social difficulties through the team. We had to look past that and realize volleyball is first. We've grown stronger."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or (813) 421-3886.

. fast facts

Hudson (24-3)

vs. Jensen Beach (25-5)

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Lakeland Center

Need to know: Winner advances to Saturday's Class 4A state final to play the winner of Jacksonville Bishop Kenny-Fort Myers. That match begins at 2:30 p.m.

During year of change, Cobras volleyball finds comfort zone 11/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 6:43pm]
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