Lake Norman's and Hough's girls' soccer teams have never played a game against each other.
But already, the matchup between the Wildcats and Huskies is anticipated as one of the top games of the year in the I-Meck.
Lake Norman, No. 3 in the state, getting off to another strong start at 6-0, including 2-0 in I-Meck play, having not been challenged so far this year, having blown out solid 4A teams in Ronald Reagan and West Forsyth.
Hough, No. 9 in the state, has survived a challenging non-conference slate, going 4-1 with wins over Cox Mill, Myers Park and South Meck.Their lone loss came at Ardrey Kell.
"I think our conference is easily one of the best in the state," said Lake Norman soccer coach Jon Mertes. "You have to be ready every night because every game in the I-Meck is going to be a battle."
Lake Norman and Hough will be playing for early bragging rights, with first-place in the league likely on the line.
"We have big expectations for this team, even in our first year," said Hough coach David Smith earlier this season. "I think all of that starts with our conference games, and we are excited about the challenge and opportunity."
The Lake Norman girls' soccer team has become a state power. In the past three seasons under Mertes, the Wildcats have won 66 of their 75 games, making it to at least the third round of the playoffs, each time.
Getting off to another good start returning all but one player from last year's team, there appears to be no drop-off in sight for the Wildcats.
Reigning I-Meck Player of the Year Taylor Waters, who recently committed to Wake Forest, is the key to the offense after moving from forward to the center midfield position.
But Waters has a wealth of talent around her, including sophomore Kendall Fischlein, who can finish at a high rate and Allye Mertes, who is the more defensive-minded center midfielder.
The Wildcats will have to put a lot of pressure on a talented Hough defense led by all-state goalkeeper Emily Rusk.
The Wildcats also have a stout defense with backs Sydney Foushee and Jenna Weston anchoring the group.
Lake Norman is the favorite on paper to win the I-Meck and beat Hough. But the game isn't played on paper and the pressure is on the Wildcats to prove they are the best team, especially on the road.
Just a month ago, the Hough girls' soccer had never played together as a collective unit. But the Huskies already have shown signs of what is expected to be one of the top teams in the state from the start.
All-state forward Allison Stearns shifted into the center midfield this year with former North Mecklenburg teammate Hannah Robinson and will look to control the offensive attack.
Rusk and her defense will try to keep the Huskies in the game by holding Lake Norman's offense at bay.
Hough hasn't been in a game of this magnitude yet, but the Huskies, led by six former North Meck players who won a state championship last year, know exactly what to expect.
Hough will have the chance to put their best foot forward against Lake Norman at home. With so much talent on the field on both sides of the ball, expect a tight game that could be decided in the game's final minutes.