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The Greenfield School varsity boys soccer team of the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A ranks and Hunt High of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A division battled to a 1-1 standoff during Tuesday night’s opening session of the annual Rotary Cup at Gillette Soccer Complex.
The outcome drew an understandable OK reaction from first-year head coaches Phillip Long of the Warriors of the Big East Conference and Eric Nguyen of Greenfield, a 1-A member of the split 1-A/2-A Coastal Plain Independents Conference.
Long, who starred at Hunt High, debuted against his Warriors’ predecessor. Nguyen, of course, coached against a squad manned with seniors and juniors that he coached last season.
“I was excited,” reacted Nguyen, whose Knights’ emerged with a 2-1-1 record. “ It’s always cool to coach against a school where I coached and where I went to. The 1-1 tie really worked out best for all. I will always support (the Warriors) but I am a Knight now.”
Said Long: “It was great; I have known Eric for a long time. I have nothing but love for all the coaches and players. It’s good to see the competitive nature like it is now. Win or lose, it’s good to have a rivalry.
“I never feel good about not winning, but the tie was earned.”
The players’ take varied somewhat.
“We knew Hunt was coming out hard against their former coach,” remarked senior Jackson Stone, who netted the Greenfield goal. “We definitely wanted to emphasize our effort and give it all we had.”
Commented Hunt junior goalkeeper Ty Philpott: “I wish we could have beaten (Nguyen). “We expected a good battle from his team, and that’s what we got. I feel like we should have come out with a 1-0 win.”
Barely two minutes had elapsed when Hunt’s Nestor Castro fielded the soccer ball at his feet, turned and cranked a shot to the left corner and past senior Knights goalkeeper Luke Flaherty. Alex Cruz lofted the ball in Castro’s direction.
Otherwise, the first half belonged to the defensive units of Hunt’s Alan Romero, Obed Mendoza, Andrew McVey, Esai Torrez, Max Sahtes and Philpott and the Knights’ Flaherty, Riley Jennings, Patrick Smith, Will Powell and Nathan Lozevski.
The Knights countered with the equalizer with 24:32 remaining when Stone blistered a shot from some 30 yards out that was out of Philpott’s reach. Phillip said he slipped in reacting to Stone’s shot that produced his sixth goal of the young season.
Philpott deflected Stone’s shot at the outset of the second half and, seconds later, Flaherty deflected an attempt from the Warriors’ Hayden Edwards.
A long-distance Stone free kick barely sailed over the bar and, in the final 10 minutes, Greenfield’s Flaherty repelled shots by Hunt’s Landon Geselle and Romero.
But the Knights contended the match-saver occurred in the closing five minutes when defender Smith, a senior, stepped in to block a Hunt shot from close range.
“I am a little disappointed but also satisfied,” Stone said of the outcome. We fought hard and effort was something we talked about before the game.”
Long spoke of a “hard-fought game. It was evenly matched; we both had our chances. There was a lot to be proud of and I look forward to a lot more.”
Long was more upbeat about this Warriors’ performance in his debut upon learning Greenfield had already played three matches.
Concluded Nguyen: “We got more control of the game in the second half. I could not be more proud of the guys for fighting and getting the 1-1 result.”