ROCKPORT-- Monday night’s Division 4 North Quarterfinal boys soccer tilt between No. 2 Rockport and No. 7 Hamilton-Wenham was truly a game of inches.
For 70 minutes, the Vikings and Generals battled tooth and nail for every inch of space on the Rockport High School field and the game came down to a pair of plays in the final 10 minutes of play.
The Vikings thought they took a 1-0 lead at the 10 minute mark but a shot rang off the cross bar. Just one minute later, Hamilton-Wenham’s Alex Berthoud found the back of the net putting a shot just inches inside the far right post off of a pass from Niko Surpa, a recent junior varsity call-up. The goal was the only score of the contest and sends the Generals to the Division 4 North Semifinals.
Rockport’s season comes to an end at 13-5-2, it will not be playing in the sectional semifinals for the first time since 2008.
“It was epic out there,” Generals head coach Matt Gauron said. “It was an absolute battle, Rockport did an unbelievable job.”
Vikings head coach Dave Curley was also quick to praise the play of both teams.
“I thought it was a very evenly played game and just a well played high school soccer match,” Curley said. “We didn’t get the result that we wanted but it wasn’t for lack of effort, and we played the way we wanted to play.”
It was Rockport that controlled play over the first 40 minutes, keeping the Generals offense at bay while generating a few nice scoring chances of their own.
In the first 10 minutes of play, the Vikings put a shot just over the cross bar from inside the box. Later in the first half, Vikings senior captain Shaun Aspesi got some room and put a shot on goal but Generals goalie Henry Eagar aggressively came out of his net to cut off the angle and make a huge save to keep the score 1-0.
Hamilton-Wenham also did a great job on the defensive side of the ball clogging up passing lanes and crowding the man with the ball, and as a result there were few quality scoring chances.
“In the first half I thought we did a little more with the ball possession wise,” Curley said. “But we didn’t have many clear shots. We were just one pass away on a few occasions. Give credit where credit is due, (Hamilton-Wenham) played great on the back end.”
The Generals reversed the flow of play in the second half as they controlled the ball over the majority of the last 40 minutes of play. But like Hamilton-Wenham in the first half, the Rockport defense was equally as stingy in the second half.
Hamilton-Wenham nearly got on the board in the 50th minute putting a nice shot on goal off of a corner kick, but Vikings goalie Jacob Rostowski made a great diving stop to keep the game scoreless.
The Generals continued to pressure for the next 20 minutes causing Curley to use a timeout. Whatever was said during the break seemed to work for the Vikings as they came out and started to take back the momentum, hitting the cross bar with 10 minutes to go.
“I thought we got it underneath the cross bar,” Curley said.
One minute later, Hamilton-Wenham came down and Berthoud notched what turned out to be the game winning goal. Rockport stepped up its offensive pressure from there and had a free kick opportunity from just outside the box with under four minutes to play but the Generals defense would not relent.
“We definitely went defensive after the goal out of respect for Rockport,” Gauron said. “They were playing so well, we had to bring extra guys back to help shore it up. I thought in the first half they carried the play for the most part, but something happened for us in the second half.”’
With the win, Hamilton-Wenham moves on to face St. Mary’s in the sectional semis as the Spartans topped Bishop Fenwick 1-0 in its quarterfinal matchup.
Rockport finishes up the regular season with a tough loss, but an outstanding season none the less with 13 wins and the Cape Ann League Small title.
“It’s definitely going to hurt tonight,” Curley said. “But I hope in the coming weeks they will realize what a great season they had. I am so proud of the way the kids handled themselves from the preseason on.”