By Nick Curcuru
---- — ROCKPORT— Monday’s Cape Ann League Small showdown between the Rockport and Georgetown boys soccer teams was not a state tournament match, but it featured everything that makes postseason soccer so great.
Entering the game, only a point separated the Vikings and Royals for first place in the CAL Small with the winner controlling its own destiny for the league crown. As a result, both teams laid it all on the line for the entire 80 minutes trading shots, collisions and saves.
In the end, the top two teams in the CAL Small could not find any separation finishing with a 1-1 draw. With the draw, the Royals remain a point ahead of the Vikings for first place and control their own destiny for the league title. The consolation prize for Rockport is a fifth straight trip to the postseason as Monday’s point gives them the 18 points necessary to qualify as its record stands at 8-4-2. Georgetown moves to 7-2-4, one of its losses coming at the hands of Rockport on opening night.
It was an intense, well played and exhausting contest, which is just your average night in the Cape Ann League according to Vikings head coach Dave Curley.
“Every game is like this all year long,” he said. “They’re the favorites coming in and I’m proud to say we’ve played them twice and they haven’t beaten us. Unfortunately they came in a point ahead of us so we need some help and we need to win out to have a shot at the conference title.”
Rockport got on the board first early in the first half when the team’s leading scorer, Shaun Aspesi, gathered a pass from Nick Sanfilippo and found the back of the net near post from a bad angle. It was a goal scorers goal from one of the top offensive players in the Cape Ann League.
“He’s a scorer, and a complete player,” Curley said. “He doesn’t panic when he has the ball and like all great scorers, the game slows down for him.”
The defenses took over from there. Rockport had trouble penetrating the Royals back line for the majority of the rest of the contest while the Rockport defenses thwarted several Royals scoring opportunities.
It took an immense effort from Vikings goalie Jacob Rostowski to keep them ahead, going into the half as the senior made three huge saves in the game’s first 40 minutes. Rostowski made two nice diving stops on hard shots and handled another rocket of a shot that was hit right at him and did not allow a rebound opportunity.
The defensive unit of Mike Carbone, Matthew Tibert, Mateo Laverde, Patrick McNiff and Sanfilippo, who moved back to defense after McNiff left the game with an injury, were their usual productive selves and drew praise from Curley for the effort.
“Our back five was just rock solid once again,” Curley said. “They haven’t given up a goal from the field in weeks, they’ve all come off of corner kicks or dead ball strikes. And Jacob made a few very difficult saves in both the first and second half.”
Trailing 1-0 entering the second half, Georgetown picked up the offensive pressure even more, dominating play territorially for the majority of the final 40 minutes of play. The Vikings defense stood strong until 10 minutes to go when Georgetown’s Jared Warren scored after a corner kick rattled off of a few players in the box to tie the score at 1-1.
“When you have the opportunity to clear it and don’t, it turns into a coin flip in the area,” Curley said. “We had two opportunities like that ourselves but didn’t find the hole. They did, it was an opportunistic goal.”
Rockport finished strong with three quality scoring chances in the waning minutes, two from Aspesi and one from Gideon Roell on a head from a corner kick, but the ball did not find the back of the net and the game ended in a draw.
With four games to play, Rockport still has plenty to play for. A CAL title is still within striking distance but four difficult opponents await starting with Ipswich on the road Wednesday night (6 p.m.).