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Cobras play their best to reach semis at Disney

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


AUBURNDALE -- Alison Baker was not her dominant self, but then again she didn't need to be as Hudson played its best matches of the season Saturday to advance to the Class 4A state final four.

Behind Jen Hobbs' serving, the net play of Jackie Law and Nikki Prack, their typically solid defense -- and of course a few well-placed kills and blocks from Baker -- the No. 1-ranked Cobras knocked off Gainesville Eastside 15-7, 15-10 to capture the Region 2 title.

In the semifinals, Hudson rolled over No. 8 Clay 15-7, 15-6.

"We probably played the best we've ever played," said Hudson coach Linda McQuade. "Our defense really picked it up tonight."

Hudson is advancing to its second final four. It last went in 1997, losing in the semifinals. The Cobras will meet No. 3-ranked Titusville Astronaut at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the Disney Complex in Orlando. The other final four pits Clearwater against Bishop Kenny. The championship match is scheduled for Saturday.

"We were a little scared at the end, but we took a deep breath ... we really wanted it bad," Hobbs said. "We're going to Disney."

If Hudson was scared, it was only for a moment. After losing the first game, Eastside wiped out a 5-1 deficit in the second with nine unanswered points, the only run longer than two points all day against the Cobras.

But trailing 9-5, the Cobras rode Baker and Hobbs to victory. Baker had three kills for sideouts and another for a point, and teamed with Law for some crucial scoring blocks.

Leading 13-10, Tarah Marinelli made a sensational save from a sitting position for sideout, and Hudson scored the last two points on Eastside hitting errors.

"The team stepped it up for the post-season, everyone chipped in just that little bit extra," Baker said. "Our defense played awesome, we were passing well and digging awesome, the blocking was good and Jen Hobbs did great serving. And Jackie Law, that was the best she played all season. She really stepped it up when she needed to."

Hudson never trailed in Game 1, scoring the first six points and stretching its lead to 13-4 as Prack served five straight points. Hobbs then served the first five points of the second game.

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