By Conor Walsh Correspondent
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — Still riding high from Tuesday’s grueling 1-0 victory over No. 4 seed St. Mary’s, members of the fifth-seeded Rockport boys soccer team laced up their cleats in their locker room yesterday afternoon, ready to begin preparation for tonight’s Division 3 North semifinal matchup against Weston.
Only coach Dave Curley brought a surprise with him to the locker room. For the first time in nine days, the team wouldn’t be working out.
“We had a classroom session,” Curley said. “We met and reviewed the scouting report and talked about our strategies and our plans. I think their bodies
needed an opportunity to recover. We haven’t had a break. Today they needed to just enjoy last night’s game and the purpose of the meeting was to move off of that track and onto the next one.”
The next one, it seems, will be a tough one. When the Vikings take the Arlington High School field today (5:30), it will be their third tournament game in five days, having already beaten North Reading on Sunday and St. Mary’s on Tuesday.
But Rockport’s not alone in the quick turnaround. In fact, in terms of emotional stress, the Vikings likely have an edge over Weston. In Weston’s quarterfinal matchup against top-seeded Boston International on Tuesday, the Wildcats fell behind, 1-0, in the opening minutes and could easily have fallen behind by three goals before halftime, Curley said.
The Wildcats found a way to win, though, scoring two goals over the game’s final six minutes to move on to tonight’s meeting with the Vikings.
“Talk about an emotional win,” Curley said. “That’s the challenge that both teams face, but both schools know how to ratchet it back up. The win over North Reading at home was emotional for us, and certainly draining both physically and emotionally.”
Curley had eyes on Weston on Tuesday night, as Neil Dineen -- former coach of both the boys and girls teams at Rockport -- made the trip to scout for his colleague.
And what he saw was what Curley expected: a team that mirrors his own.
The Vikings have a history against Weston, having played them in the Division 3 North title game in 2009 and the Division 3 North Semi Finals in 2010 (a loss in ‘09, a win in ‘10).
Weston hails from the Dual County League, a collection of teams Curley deemed the state’s best from top-to-bottom.
The Wildcats, like the Vikings, will look to possess the ball and attack with numbers offensively. They’ll test Rockport with their top-tier talent, particularly striker Andrew Bromfield and bruising midfielder Chason Timko, and supplement their play with a deep roster.
Doesn’t sound all that different from Rockport, does it? The Vikings, hailing from the similarly-strong Cape Ann League, will counter with a one-two offensive punch of Conor Douglass and Shaun Aspesi, and their veteran presence in the midfield and backline makes it difficult for opponents to establish an offensive identity.
“They’re not unlike us,” Curley said. “Not to say that the CAL is the DCL, but we’re challenged every day we get on the field and so are they, so I think both teams are a lot alike in terms of difficulty of schedule. That develops toughness and prepares you for the tournament. We’ve just got to try to take away their strengths.”
Other factors, like a turf field and the Nor’easter moving through New England today, will have a role in the game.
But as Curley’s seen, like last year’s semifinal played in “a monsoon,” the game will almost certainly go on regardless of weather.
And as for the turf, that looks like a wash. Weston’s home field is turf, while Rockport’s is grass. But while Weston is accustomed to the advantages of turf, Rockport’s used to the bumps and hills of its home field.
“They’re more familiar with it, but we’ve played on the turf this year too,” Curley said. “They’re on it every day, so I guess that’s to their benefit, but the flipside of that is that if we can possess the ball on our field with all its bumps, when we get on the turf fields we’re a much cleaner and more efficient team. Advantage to them in terms of familiarity, but it makes us a better team playing on turf.”
At the end of it all, the Vikings’ season will come down to 80 (or more) minutes on the field tomorrow. With a win, they advance to the North title game against the winner of the other semifinal between Newburyport and Watertown.
A loss spells the end of the road.
At a Glance Who: No. 4 Rockport (14-4-2) vs. No. 8 Weston (11-4-3) What: Division 3 North Semi Finals When: Tonight (5:30 p.m.) Where: Arlington High School What's a Stake: The winner earns a trip to the Division 3 North Finals this weekend to face the winner of No. 10 Newburyport vs. No. 6 Watertown. Did You Know: The Vikings are making their fourth straight trip to the Division 3 North Semi Finals.