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Hunt-Fike rematch a draw, teams turn focus to playoffs

Fike’s Sam Mallol, left, and Hunt’s Maddie Brown battle for possession during Wednesday’s game at Fike. Carl Copeland | Special to the Times

Soccer fans, of which there were many, who ventured out to Fike High on Wednesday got to see an intense, back-and-forth contest between two evenly-matched bitter rivals in Hunt and Fike. So evenly matched, in fact, that a winner could not be determined, with the Golden Demons and Warriors settling for a 1-1 tie after 100 minutes of soccer.

The tie gives the Warriors, who topped the Golden Demons 1-0 at Hunt on April 4, the 3-A Quad County Conference Championship. A tying goal late in regulation from Maddie Brown gave the Warriors an 18-1-3 mark to finish the regular season, as well as a 13-0-1 mark in QCC play. 

“We anticipated a very tough match,” said Hunt head coach Richard Frazier. “Fike is a top team in the state, and we consider ourselves one as well. So we expected nothing less than a battle tonight.”

Erin Pope gave the Golden Demons, who finished the regular season 18-2-2 and 12-1-1, a lead late in the first half. While the Demons were disappointed in not closing out the lead to defeat Hunt for the first time since 2018, but Fike head coach Chris Mizelle was pleased with his team’s performance ahead of the playoffs.

Hunt’s Mariah Polk dribbles past Fike’s Ashlyn Brunetti during Wednesday’s game at Fike. Carl Copeland | Special to the Times

“I thought there were a lot of reasons to be distracted tonight,” Mizelle said. “Big crowd, Senior Night, knowing what kind of result we need. I thought we were really up to the task. Just like the first game, I felt like we played well enough to win the game, probably deserved to win the game. But we didn’t. We’ll have to deal with the consequences of that. But in terms of preparation for next week, it’s great to play against a good team. Congratulations to (Hunt).”

The game was played in front of a raucous, bipartisan crowd along the sidelines, with cars spilling well out onto Harrison Avenue waiting to get into the parking lot long into the first half. 

“It was awesome,” Pope said. “They were lined up for a good 30 minutes just trying to get in the door. It was just crazy, but the atmosphere was really cool. It really helped motivate us and bring the intensity up.” 

With the Demons up 1-0 with about 14 minutes left in regulation, the Warriors finally connected. Susan Guzman sent a pass up to Brown inside the 18, who fired a shot past Fike goalkeeper Ainsley Cato to tie it at one. 

“On this team, we all have each other’s back,” Brown said. “We tell each other every day that we’re going to fight for each other and we make it work.” 

Fike’s Karys Wheeler, 1, slide tackles a ball away from Hunt’s Susan Guzman during Wednesday’s game at Fike. Carl Copeland | Special to the Times

The goal was one of numerous chances for Hunt throughout the night, but the Warriors stayed patient and avoided getting overly frustrated en route to forcing the tie. 

“This team is battle tested,” Frazier said. “We schedule the Millbrooks, 4-A schools and tough games in The Brittany to prepare us for games like this. These girls have fought, and (senior goalkeeper) Logan (Boone) has never lost to Fike. The team was behind her. We work hard each and every day, whether it’s Fike or another top opponent in the state.” 

Both teams pushed to break the tie for the rest of regulation, but neither could tickle the twine, sending the game to overtime. Neither team came up with a particularly dangerous scoring chance in overtime, as both played strong defense to limit its opponent. 

The Demons took the lead with about 6:30 left in the half, as Pope took a sharp forward pass from Lentz into the box and fired it past Boone to make it 1-0 Fike. 

“Of course there were nerves at first, because it’s a big game,” Pope said. “But when we settled into it, we got in our groove and we played well. I think we were passing well, connecting well and we ended up getting a goal.” 

Hunt had a golden chance to tie it just a couple minutes later as Polk set up Kate Conoley for a point-blank chance in front of the net, but she fired it high. Lily Stegall nearly made it 2-0 Fike with a shot from the top of the 18 as the first-half clock expired, but a diving stop from Boone kept it a one-goal game. 

Fike’s Erin Pope dribbles up the field during Wednesday’s home tie against Hunt. Carl Copeland | Special to the Times

“Logan has been extremely solid all year for us,” Frazier said. “She’s kept us in some games, and done what a senior keeper that’s going onto the next level should do.” 

Both teams have plenty to feel good about going into next week’s NCHSAA 3-A playoffs, and it’s safe to say neither Hunt nor Fike is a team anyone in the East Region wants to see in the coming weeks. 

The Warriors will enter the postseason on a 20-game unbeaten streak, and a team that’s battled injuries all year should have a full complement of players available. 

“We’re healthy, that’s the main thing,” Frazier said. “I think we can compete with anybody on any given day, I believe Fike can beat any opponent on any given day. It would be wonderful to see them in the Eastern finals if we got on different sides of the bracket. I think Wilson deserves someone in the title game. These two teams have the quality to do that.” 

Since the calendar flipped to April, the only games in which Fike has not emerged as a victor were the two matchups against Hunt. 

“I certainly think for every game we’ve had against a quality, very competitive opponent, we’ve played really well,” Mizelle said. “We haven’t been in a situation where a tough opponent has made us look like we couldn’t play with them. You go back to the Battle at the Beach, The Brittany, any nonconference game we’ve played and the two matchups with Hunt here, I think the performances have been top-notch. We’re going to play some good people in the next few weeks, and we’ve been playing really well against good people. So I hope that trend continues.” 

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