Eight years ago, Hudson played for a state title.
After 26 wins and just five defeats, those exhausted Cobras stood in a gymnasium in Lake Buena Vista with silver medals hanging from their necks. Crying for some was a given after coming within a match of winning it all.
And as good as North Suncoast volleyball has been in recent seasons, no other team has been that close.
The Cobras have one of the most experienced postseason programs on the North Suncoast, including three final four berths. Those all came under the guidance of coach Linda McQuade, now in her 20th season.
After a one-year hiatus from the playoffs — the Cobras have gotten there 12 times since 1995 — McQuade helped Hudson to one of the bigger upsets of her tenure, sweeping Nature Coast in the Class 4A, District 8 final last week at Wiregrass Ranch.
The Sharks had dropped just three district games all season, and had swept the district in regular-season play. Two of those dropped games came in Hudson's gym in a second meeting between the teams.
4A, Groveland South Lake (16-7) at Hudson (20-7): The Cobras are coming off one of the bigger upsets in their history. Shannon Zasloff and Jessica Imbimbo lead the way with 138 and 134 kills, respectively. Jessica Christianson has 153 digs. South Lake has been to consecutive region semifinals.
4A, Nature Coast (24-3) at Orlando Bishop Moore (21-7): The Sharks put themselves in a tough spot traveling to Bishop Moore, which reached last year's region final after wins over Zephyrhills and South Lake. Nature Coast was swept in the district final by Hudson, but the Sharks are led by Alex Livengood (381 kills), Kayla Bailey (67 blocks) and Courtney Liddle (407 digs).
Class 5A, Newsome (12-3) at River Ridge (23-4): The Royal Knights swept through the district tournament with relative ease and return to the playoffs for the 11th consecutive time after claiming their seventh consecutive district title. Alex Laton and Leah Mitchell are the kill leaders with 299 and 202, respectively. Newsome fell to Brandon in the district final in four games.
5A, Ridgewood (14-9) at Brandon (23-1): The Rams will have to overcome one of the bay area's most complete teams in Brandon. Ridgewood is known for its defense and digging ability, and will need all facets of its game to upset Brandon. The Eagles' lone loss was to nationally ranked Plant. But Brandon proved vulnerable in the district final, dropping one game to Newsome.