Another match, and another star emerges for the Hudson volleyball team.
Better make that stars. With no one standout to rely on, the Cobra players continued to take turns in the starring role, putting together a pair of stirring performances in advancing to the Class 4A state final four.
The Cobras (29-3) beat No. 2-ranked Bishop Kenny 15-3, 15-8 in the North II Regional championship at Bishop Moore Friday night, giving the team its first state appearance and the first for any Hudson athletic team.
Hudson will travel to Lakeland George Jenkins for next week's state championships, meeting Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons in the semifinals Friday. The Redskins have won 16 state championships and defeated Hudson in the 1995 regional final.
Their coach was on hand to watch Hudson beat Kenny, and what Louise Crocco saw was another gutsy, steady and sometimes spectacular performance by a team that continues to surprise.
The Cobras beat host Bishop Moore earlier in the day in the semifinals, rallying to a 15-10, 15-13 win after trailing in both games.
They trailed again in the championship to a bigger, higher-flying Kenny team by an 8-6 score. But Kacy Door, Icy Miller and Melissa Strawser all had aces in a 6-1 run to give the Cobras a 12-10 lead.
Kenny rallied to tie the game at 12, but Hudson set up game point on an error, then put it away on a Dana Wilke kill.
Solidifying its role as a comeback team, the Cobras fell behind 7-0 in the second game. Hudson coach Linda McQuade called timeout to settle her troops.
"I just told them they were on their own," she said. "I told them to go play their game."
The Cobras did, chipping away at the lead and closing the match with a 14-1 run.
Leading 9-8, Wilke drilled a kill off a block, and Shannon Wisler had three straight kills to make it 13-8. Wilke then poked another kill cleanly off the middle of the floor, then hit another off a block to set up match point. Wisler converted it with a serve that Kenny couldn't return.
Wilke finished with seven kills, picking up where Miller (13 kills) left off in the first match.
"Dana Wilke rose to the occasion," McQuade said. "She played the game of her life tonight."
Wilke and Miller were often set up by Jill Perez, who was everywhere on the court, and a serving game that was at its best. The Cobras had nine aces against Kenny, negating its size advantage by keeping its attack off balance.
"They did a great job," said McQuade. "I really can't say enough about them."