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Girls’ soccer: Hough, Myers Park rivalry renewed with high stakes

The high school girls’ soccer teams at Hough and Myers Park have built a competitive, yet friendly rivalry over the past few years, both schools’ coaches say. It’s also becoming one of the state’s most important.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday at Hough, Myers Park (23-2) and the Huskies (23-0-2) will play in the N.C. 4A Western Regional championship for the second straight season. The winner will advance to Saturday’s state final.

“It’s a healthy rivalry,” Mustangs coach Bucky McCarley said. “Not the kind of of rivalries I’ve had in the past with Providence or Ardrey Kell or South Meck. The intensity of those rivalries sometimes disrupts the opportunity to play soccer the way we want to, we being Myers Park.”

Hough, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the National Soccer Coaches poll, is in the regional final for the fourth straight year. The Huskies are trying to become the first Mecklenburg County 4A team to reach the championship round three straight seasons.

Hough won the 2012 state championship over Cary Green Hope, then the nation’s top-ranked team. Green Hope beat Hough in the 2013 state final.

Myers Park, ranked No. 3 in the state, has never reached the state final. The Mustangs also have never beaten Hough. Myers Park is 0-5-1 all-time against the Huskies, including its only losses this season. Both defeats were 1-0.

“Each time,” McCarley said, “once we got over the emotion of the loss, we’ve known we were just as good a team as they were. It’s frustrating to not have the score line to back that up, but in my mind, I don’t feel there’s an enormous psychological advantage or disadvantage (to the close games). We know we have to play really, really well to win and they know they have to play really, really well to beat us.”

Since losing to Hough at home on May 7, Myers Park has won five straight by a combined score of 29-3.

Hough had won 19 games in a row and ascended to No. 1 nationally before a 2-2 tie against Concord’s Robinson High on May 8, one day after the second Myers Park win. Since then, the Huskies are 4-0 and haven’t surrendered a goal.

“But we don’t want to get caught up in what we’ve done in the past,” Hough coach David Smith said. “That won’t help us Tuesday.”

Smith said the key to winning Tuesday is simple.

“We’ve got to limit their chances and defend,” he said. “We have to make sure we know where their danger players are up top and do a good job in the midfield of tracking back when we lose the ball. If we defend well, we feel good about creating chances. It’s a matter of limiting their chances.”

Smith said his team is very hungry to get back to the state title round.

“It’s not our battle cry each and every night,” he said. “It’s in the back of our minds. It’s one of those things you mention in February and put on the back burner, but now we’re in May and down to the last possible two games. It creeps to the forefront.

“But each game has to be its own. We cannot get ahead of ourselves. We can’t do anything about the state championship Tuesday. We have to take care of Myers Park.”

Smith said that will be a difficult task.

“We have the utmost respect for Myers Park,” he said. “It’s a healthy, friendly rivalry. Bucky and I talked a couple times this weekend. It’s nice to have that kind of competitive friendship with our other schools.”