Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.
With five minutes remaining in Thursday’s Senior Night clash with archrival Fike, Hunt High senior goalkeeper Rachel Cox carried out her most exhausting save of the night.
As the action took place well away from the Hunt net — an overriding theme in this 2-0 Lady Warriors victory that clinched the outright 3-A Big East Conference championship — a baby somehow meandered onto the pitch.
Play was never stopped, and Cox scooped the child up and carried it out of harm’s way. On a night where the Lady Warriors had first-half corner kicks than shots, the defensive back four of senior Alea Jones, senior Miriam Herrera, freshman Kaley Gesell and junior Abbigail Beamon ensured that Cox could have opened up a full-fledged nursery in the Lady Warriors’ penalty area and not faced danger.
“My hat’s off to my defense,” Hunt head coach Richard Frazier said. “My back four pretty much handled them so our offense could do what they did today.”
Hunt improved to 12-2 overall and remained unbeaten through nine Big East games, clinching the title in the process. Fike dropped to 6-7-1 overall and 5-2 in conference play. The Lady Warriors and Lady Demons must still complete a suspended match at Fike on May 1, where, prior to lightning in the area, Hunt held a 1-0 advantage in the first half. There will not be a conference tournament.
As the Lady Warriors wore pink uniforms in memory of Layla Overby, a Hunt High student who passed away on March 16, Hunt dominated possession in the first half, taking 13 corner kicks in that span to just 10 shots. However, despite a 20th-minute shot from sophomore Kristen Armstrong slamming off the crossbar, the teams departed for halftime scoreless.
The Lady Demons were reduced to a game of long ball, disdaining sustained possession in the name of taking boots down the field.
“We were confident that if we kept working it in, we would be able to get some goals,” Frazier said. “It was good to have the possession and the things that we did. My hat’s off to Fike, they dug in and made it hard for us. But I was glad to see that first goal go in. I think that kind of loosened us up and we had several really, really good opportunities in the second half.”
It didn’t take long for Hunt’s sustained pressure to bear fruit in the second half. As a testament to Fike’s misfortune, sophomores Kendall Harris and Keyshawana Ortiz clanged heads trying to play a ball in the Lady Demons’ defensive third — resulting in a Hunt corner.
Both had to come off the field, and as Hunt senior Sophia Fox struck the corner, the ball bounded in the box for classmate Mckenzie Hinnant. She ran onto it and poked it by Fike senior goalkeeper JahAsia Pernell in the 42nd minute, and Hunt led 1-0.
“Kendall and Key had to come out, and before I know it, I get back to the bench and they had scored a goal,” Fike head coach Toni Varacchi said. “That kind of took the wind out of our sails. But it is what it is.”
Both Harris and Ortiz eventually returned, and Hunt’s Cox faced two shots on frame in the second half. The Lady Demons were held without a shot in any form in the first half. Fike’s best opportunity arguably came in the 47th, when freshman Akari Nakaya had a one-on-one against Cox. However, Cox met her well off her line to snuff out the advance.
Hunt doubled the margin in the 58th minute. Fox hit a cross that hit the far post and lazily trickled into the area, allowing senior Camille Ruiz to run onto it unmarked and slam it away for the final margin.
Pernell, active as ever, had 12 saves for the Lady Demons.
“I thought in the first half, we just played not to lose,” Varacchi said. “We didn’t make any offensive pushes and Reece (Nelson) and Akari were pretty much up there by themselves.”
Added Frazier: “A conference championship is always good. It has very little to do with the coach and everything to do with the players.”