The U-16 Gloucester Riptide just barely qualified for last weekends Massachusetts Tournament of Champions in Lancaster, Ma. as a wild card team. But being an underdog didn't stop them from finding success as the Riptide ran through the entire tournament and was crowned Massachusetts U-16 Division 1 State Champions.
After going 2-1 in pool play with wins over Brockton and Fall River and a loss to Arlington after they had already qualified for the semi finals, Gloucester met familiar foe North Andover in the semi's. North Andover had topped Gloucester is the Essex County Youth Soccer Association U-16 finals the previous weekend at Pingree School and Riptide came into the contest with revenge on their minds on Sunday.
North Andover controlled play early but late in the second half Gloucester took the lead on a Eli Horne header on a cross from Sam Roell to head into the half with a 1-0 lead.
Gloucester came out strong in the second half and Shaun Aspesi was able to place the ball in the back of the net for goal number two. Calvin Kipruto put in two break away goals to ice the victory and propel his team into the final against Wilmington on Sunday afternoon.
The first 20 minutes were back an forth as the two teams tried to feel each other out.
Wilmington found the first hole as a corner kick found the head of an attacker left unmarked in front of the goal, Wilmington would take that 1-0 lead into the break.
Gloucester, however, regrouped.
"We needed to put out even more effort," head coach Mike Rogers said. "We needed to win the 50/50 balls and take this game back."
At the 20 minute mark of second half Gloucester did just that after a Riptide player was tripped just outside the 18 yard line resulting in a free kick.
Aspesi, who has been the teams specialist in free kicks all season, approached the ball and looked for his opportunity. As the Wilmington keeper was setting up his wall Aspesi saw a gap and shot the ball just inside the right post to tie the game before Wilmington was able to get set.
Both teams played hard for the rest of the half and Gloucester players were showing signs of tiring as the half concluded in a 1-1 tie. MTOC overtime rules dictate two five minute over time periods, no golden goal, if it is still tied after 10 minutes of OT the teams would go to a shootout to decide the championship.
It would not get to that point as the break after regulation seemed to energize the team and Gloucester came out strong controlling the field of play for most of the overtime. Wilmington was turned away on each run by defensive players Stephen Gross, Dan Carpenter, Ryan Davis and Keeper Josh Wilson.
With less then two minutes remaining Gloucester fed the ball up the left side where midfielder Aspesi passed to striker Horne who received the ball, made a move around the defender and shot the ball into the right hand side of the net for a 2-1 win and a state championship victory. In addition to the state title, the Gloucester Riptide was awarded the U-16 Sportsmanship Award. ECYSA President Jeff Chambers praised the Riptide while handing out the award.
"ECYSA is so proud to have Gloucester Riptide represent them at the Mass. Tournament of Champions," he said. "It is unusual to see a team win both the championship and the sportsmanship award. It is good to see a team play the game the right way."