By Conor Walsh Correspondent
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — ARLINGTON — The Rockport and Weston boys soccer teams are no strangers.
Having met deep in the Division 3 North tournament two of the past three years, the two programs have built some history together.
So when No. 5 seed Rockport kicked off against the eighth-seeded Wildcats at Arlington High School’s Peirce Field in the North semifinals Saturday, the Vikings knew Weston would give them all that they could handle.
As it turns out, the Wildcats gave Rockport more than it could handle. Having controlled play for much of the game, Weston finally broke through early in the second quarter and added an insurance goal with six minutes to play to secure its trip to the North final with a 2-0 victory.
And for the second-straight season, the Vikings saw their season get cut short in the semifinals.
“We struggled the entire game with our touch and with our possession game,” Rockport coach Dave Curley said. “Certainly a big part of that has got to go to Weston. Weston pressured the ball hard the whole game, made us hurry passes at times and beat us to some 50/50 balls that we normally don’t get beaten to. Credit to Weston.”
From the start, Weston dictated the play of the game. With a controlled possession game that mirrors Rockport’s style, the Wildcats pinned Rockport in its defensive end for much of the first half.
Despite an 11-4 shot deficit at halftime, though, the Vikings didn’t see much danger in the first half and kept most shots to the outside. In fact, when the Vikings were able to find transition they found some quality scoring chances of their own.
But when a miscommunication on the backline spotted Weston a 1-0 lead early in the second half, the road suddenly became a whole lot steeper.
As the Vikings looked to build on a lengthy bit of possession to open the second half, their defenders looked to regroup and send a cleared ball back toward the Weston goal.
Only the pressure of Weston midfielder Sam Cekala forced a hurried pass that Cekala scooped up. He headed toward the Rockport goal unabated and tucked a shot inside the far post to give Weston the lead for good. Rockport goalkeeper Eric Littlefield (10 saves) never had a chance.
“Miscommunication obviously on the first goal,” Curley said. “Next thing you know, there they go. Just an unfortunate mistake, but I felt like we could come back from that.”
Just as Rockport readied to commit more numbers to the offensive attack to help find the equalizer, though, a collision between Nick Laverde and a Weston midfielder earned Laverde his second yellow card of the match, sending him to the bench and leaving the Vikings shorthanded with 12 minutes to play.
They still gave it their best shot to tie it up, sending sweeper Matt Rostowski — once a striker — up top to help generate offense.
Ultimately, though, Weston just had too much, and with 10 players on the field, Rockport’s comeback bid was thwarted when Weston’s Chason Timko corralled a corner kick and laced a low shot from 35 yards out through traffic past Littlefield to put the game away with six minutes to play.
“The card really, really hamstrung us,” Curley said. “The guys say it was just the two kids colliding and their guy went down hurt, and because Nick had already been carded, there you go. We were still getting our looks and we were just about to go into a more offensive shape, but to try to do it with 10 is a whole lot harder than it is to do it with 11.”
With the win, Weston moves on to face No. 6 seed Watertown — which blanked Newburyport, 3-0, in the other semifinal — in the Division 3 North final.
And with the loss, the curtains were drawn on the careers of Rockport’s nine-man senior class that had reached two North semifinals, two North championship games and won a North championship.
Those Vikings were a part of an astounding 60 wins over their four-year career.
As they circled up to stretch for the last time after Satuday’s loss, though, those 60 wins were of little consolation.
“Great run. I’m very proud of these kids,” Curley said. “Couldn’t be more proud of them and the season that they’ve had. Very tough road to get here. They’ve had a hell of a year and these seniors have had an incredible four years, but it doesn’t help right now. Right now it’s too fresh.”