Off on the right foot: Hunt kicks off Big East play with frosty win over Northern Nash

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Despite the first-half opportunities at hand, the lack of connecting passes, and more specifically, the finishes, was indicative of a Hunt High varsity girls soccer team that had not played in nine days prior to Monday night’s 3-A Big East Conference opener against Northern Nash.

Playing against a swirling wind and its associated chill in the opening 40 minutes of play, Hunt pocketed the first of two goals from senior Sophia Fox in the 33rd minute to take a 1-0 lead into the half. While the wind didn’t die down in the second half, the Lady Warriors, with the swirl at their backs after halftime, kept the ball on the ground and used to put away two more tallies in a 3-1 victory in the conference opener for both teams.

Hunt emerged with a 3-2 record, with Northern Nash, coached by former Fike High quarterback Cam Avery, dropping to 3-4.

The Lady Warriors won for the second time under the stewardship of assistant coach Milton Little, directing the group while head coach Richard Frazier continues his involvement with the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.

“We had to get our legs under us a little bit,” Little said. “And you’ve got to give it to Northern Nash — they’ve played two games since we have played and they were a little bit more match fit than we were and pressed us a little bit. The second half, we started coming together and started connecting some passes and some opportunities.”

Hunt took 11 total corners — five in the first half and six in the second — and came up empty on all of them. But the Lady Warriors departed for halftime with something to show for their pressure when senior Carolina Vazques-Balcazar slid a through ball to Fox for the first of the latter’s two goals. Fox slotted it high over the head of Northern Nash keeper Sidney Sullivan, putting Hunt up 1-0 at the half.

The Lady Warriors thoroughly dominated possession and owned a 27-3 advantage in total shots. Hunt enjoyed a 17-2 edge in shots on frame, albeit most shots required little effort to stop from Sullivan.

But roughly five minutes after Hunt sophomore speedster Kristen Armstrong was stopped on a breakaway, the Lady Warriors quickly flipped the field and executed in transition. Senior Camille Ruiz quickly sent the ball ahead to Fox, who put it away in the 48th to put Hunt up 2-0.

At times, Northern Nash’s tackling was spotty, allowing balls to linger inside its 18-yard area. An instance of that cost the Knights in the 64th, where Vazques-Balcazar ran onto a bounding ball in the box and sent it by Sullivan, allowing Hunt to seize firm control at 3-0 with 16:33 to play.

“That led to a lot of danger, really all night,” Avery said of Northern Nash’s defense in its penalty area. “Just not having a big enough foot either to get it out, or not controlling the ball, getting it on the ground and finding somebody wide. Credit Hunt, they’re a great team. Their forwards are good, their midfield is good and a lot of them have played soccer for a long time, so they have very talented girls. But at the same time, we have to figure out, especially from our youth in a hurry, to get those balls out quicker.”

Senior Rachel Cox played 69 minutes in goal for Hunt, making two saves before yielding to freshman Trista Waddell for the remainder of play. Northern Nash quickly attacked against Waddell and pulled one back on Janiah Godley’s goal with 10:08 to play. However, Hunt kept the Knights at bay as the remaining time elapsed.

The Lady Warriors will play one more match under Little as they travel to Rocky Mount on Wednesday.

“I don’t know if we’ve played a game yet this season where we haven’t had any type of weather adversity,” Little said. “We really don’t know how to play in it unless it’s raining on us. I just think Northern came out great. They were match fit and they were ready to play. It took a half to get our legs under us.”