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Cobras clinch third SAC title with win


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 4, 2000

NEW PORT RICHEY -- Hudson lost more than its No. 1 state ranking and its own tournament this weekend when River Ridge knocked the Cobras off in the semifinals Saturday -- it lost its air of invincibility.

It took three days to get it back.

Playing the same River Ridge team that handed it its only loss and snapped its 12-match winning streak, Hudson exacted a measure of revenge by outclassing the Royal Knights 15-5, 15-12 Tuesday night.

Playing one of its best all-around matches of the season, Hudson improved to 13-1 and also clinched its third consecutive Sunshine Athletic Conference championship.

Hudson, which dropped to No. 2 in the latest Class 4A state volleyball poll, was determined to retain its SAC title after losing its own tournament for the first time in three seasons. It was also determined to do something it hasn't had to this year -- bounce back after a loss.

"They were upset (after losing) but one loss is definitely recoverable," coach Linda McQuade said. "We had all our players playing the game tonight, that was the difference. We also ran our attack more than we did in the tournament."

Though highly regarded for her offense, which once again was sterling, middle hitter Alison Baker was outstanding in the back row and setter Kelly Aguis made a handful of super saves.

"We had a really hard practice yesterday and worked on that," Aguis said. "We were ready to do better."

Hudson scored the first six points of the match, and River Ridge (14-4) was unable to get into the first game. A River Ridge ace by Dawn Conner made it 12-6, but Jackie Law's kill for sideout gave the ball back to Hudson, and Prack's booming kill moments later set up game point. Baker, who served the final three points and nine for the game, ended it with an ace.

While Baker was effective with seven kills and three blocks, and Prack added three kills, River Ridge killed any hopes for a rally with eight hitting errors that directly gave Hudson points in the opener.

The Cobras started game two strongly, but this time River Ridge rallied with six straight points to take the lead. Conner served four of those points, two on aces.

But Hudson came back with seven straight points as Baker produced kills for two sideouts after exciting rallies.

Trailing 13-7, River Ridge made one more run trying to force a third game, but squandered momentum with a sloppy offensive series that gave the ball back to Hudson. The Cobras then closed out the match with two Prack serves that River Ridge could not return.

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