Sports

Volleyball: Hannah in the middle

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Read about the Volleyball's playoff run here.

 

No need to tell Hannah Hudson that she’s got a metaphorical target on her back.

 

She’s been ready for a while.

 

The Sequim High School senior this weekend finished a solid year of playing libero, one of the more unglamorous yet crucial positions on a varsity volleyball squad.

 

“Kids kind of have to embrace it,” says Sequim coach Jennie Webber Heilman. “You have to be aggressive and go for every ball, because they’re kind of the backbone of the offense.”

 

Libero, an Italian word meaning “free,” is anything but free on a volleyball court. Introduced internationally in 1998, the libero position is an almost purely defensive position, allowing those who play it to substitute for any back row player without prior notice to officials. They can hit the ball only below net height and can only set with certain restrictions.

 

Traditionally, the libero is the best defensive player on the team.

 

“It’s a position not a lot of people can do,” Hudson says.

 

Hudson, her coach says, fits the mold.

 

“She’s not loud on the court but she’s a leader (because) she goes after everything and does whatever she needs to do,” Webber Heilman says.

 

“I’m always excited for practices, Hudson says. “I’m always excited for games.”

 

Hudson started playing volleyball in sixth grade at Sequim Middle School and joined Team Turbo, a local club, for two years. In seventh grade, the first year for team play at the middle school, coaches used Hudson as a setter. The following year, despite her small frame (she barely stands above five feet tall), Hudson split time between setter and outside hitter.

 

“She’s actually a pretty good hitter,” Webber Heilman says. “I was going to try to have her hit this year. We probably haven’t utilized her as much as we could have.”

 

As a freshman, Hudson substituted in a bit on the varsity squad.

 

Right away, Webber Heilman could tell she had something special in the future libero.

 

“She was always a good passer and defensive player,” the Sequim coach says. “(Libero) is a position that’s kind of needed, especially at the next level.

 

“You have to be able to read the offense and know where the ball’s going.”

 

As the years passed, Hudson developed into a defensive star, earning a spot on the Edmonds-based club team Northwest Juniors.

 

“She’s had a lot of passes that are amazing, flat out,” Webber Heilman says.

 

That’s one of the things Hudson says she loves about being the Wolves’ libero.

 

“A split second reaction can get the crowd and the team fired up,” Hudson says. “The energy from the crowd is a really good feeling.”

 

To help coaches and officials, liberos wear uniforms that clearly mark them as a different player on the court. As if heavy-hitting opponents needed more of a target to hit at …

 

It doesn’t seem to bother Hudson a bit, though.

 

“I love the position,” she says.

 

In addition to her defensive prowess, Hudson developed into one of the Wolves’ top servers, honing a jump serve she learned as a freshman at a University of Washington camp.

 

Webber Heilman says Hudson’s jump float serve gave the Wolves’ opponents fits.

 

“People don’t know what to do with it,” Webber Heilman says. “She’s really a tough server.”

 

Sequim’s Wolves saw their season end just one game from state. They lost a five-game match to Fife in the district’s quarterfinals — a win would have secured a state berth — and dropped a five-game match to Port Angeles in the consolation finals, giving Port Angeles the final state tourney seed.

 

Hudson, her coach says, played well enough to get strong consideration for top postseason honors.

 

“She deserves to be on the first team,” Webber Heilman says, and possible the league’s defensive MVP.

 

Hudson says she isn’t sure where she’ll end up for school next year, but wants to play at the collegiate level, possibly at Linfield College (Oregon) or Pierce (community) College in Tacoma.

 

Wherever she plays, you’ll know where to find her: in the back row, ready for just about anything.

Reach Michael Dashiell at editor@sequimgazette.com.
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