Hudson will play Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in a state semifinal match at 2 p.m. on Thursday at Wright State University's Nutter Center in Dayton

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The Hudson High School volleyball team will begin play in the program's first Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament on Friday as the Division I underdog. Hudson is the division's only newcomer to the final four and only state qualifier not ranked in the final state coaches' poll.

Having the odds stacked against her Explorers doesn't concern third-year head coach Jessica Ciborek. She's seen her squad – which was tasked with replacing five senior letterwinners from last year's team – set lofty goals at the season's outset and then go out and achieve them.

"Their ability to focus and play in big-game situations has been huge," Ciborek said.

After fixing some errors halfway through the regular season, Ciborek has watched the Explorers (21-6, 9-1 Northeast Ohio Conference Lake Division) play with determination, hustle and intensity.

"We were able to pick up the tempo of our game and hustle a lot more, so that is how we've been so successful in the postseason," Ciborek said.

Hudson's tournament run has featured straight-set wins against Wadsworth and Massillon Jackson in the regional tournament.

The Explorers' recent success can be traced back to the team's three captains – seniors Krissy Mummey and Celia Cristofoli and junior Jordan Mackay.

"Jordan, Krissy and Celia dominate our front-row attack," Ciborek said. "The three of them have kind of set the tone for the postseason."

Mummey, who was recently named an honorable mention all-state honoree, and Mackay serve as the team's go-to players from their middle-hitter position.

Hudson will play Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame in a state semifinal match at 2 p.m. on Thursday at Wright State University's Nutter Center in Dayton.

The winner will play either Columbus St. Francis DeSales or Toledo St. Ursula Academy in the state title match at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Ciborek is confident the Explorers will have success on the sport's biggest stage.

"We need to worry about what we do on our side of the net," Ciborek said. "If we continue to play at the level we've been playing at or even better, we'll be fine."

Regardless of how and when the Explorers conclude their season, their postseason run has energized the Hudson community in a way that Ciborek hopes will have a lasting effect.

"Hopefully, it drives more young athletes to the great sport of volleyball," Ciborek said of her team's accomplishments. "It means a ton, not only to the 15 girls on the team, but to the entire community."

For more Northeast Ohio high school sports news, scores, photos and videos, visit USATodayhss.com/Cleveland.

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