East Hamilton's Daniel Duk was a marked man Thursday. The only problem was, his coach was the one with the close eye on him - not the East Ridge defense.
Duk finished with three second-half goals, and the Hurricanes got an early leg up in the District 6-A/AA soccer race with a 4-1 victory over the Pioneers. The scoring spree ended a recent skid of bad luck for the senior, and that seemingly caused Duk to play a little lackadaisical at times in the first half.
Hurricanes coach John Millard had a conversation with him at halftime.
"I was flat in the first half," Duk said. "I've had that tendency at times, like I hit a little speed bump in the road, but Coach told me to get my mind back into it, and that helped."
The left-footed Duk got in the scoring column early in the second half, pushing a shot past East Ridge keeper Jonathan Rodriguez.
"It was nice to see him get his stride back," Millard said. "Daniel's been a bit unlucky as of late and hadn't been able to finish several opportunities he's had to put away. You could see he'd been burdened by it; he was stuck in first gear.
"He needed one to get in the back of the net, and as soon as that happened you could see the spring back in his step."
The Hurricanes (6-1, 2-0) led 1-0 at halftime after East Ridge's Collin Sweatman headed a ball into his own net. The second half belonged to Duk's goals, which were assisted by Jose Orellana and Kyle Gallups.
"We had a much better second half," Millard said. "In the first half, we had a lot of trouble linking together a string a passes. We were too direct too often, but we started to open up in the second half, and I thought we had a great response when we received the ball."
Kolbe King scored the goal for East Ridge (5-2, 1-1), assisted by Sweatman.
"I thought we defended well in the first half," Pioneers coach Jeremy McIntyre said. "In the second half, they had a little more attack. It's still early in the season, though. We're still learning, and we're just now playing good teams.
"We're going to take a break [for spring break], get refreshed and come ready for the second half of the season."