The long, grueling grind that was the high school soccer regular season is now over with the Gloucester and Rockport boys being the only two teams left standing on Cape Ann.
Believe it or not, the last two plus months was the easy part as the state tournament is now upon us. The Fishermen and Vikings now have zero margin for error, one loss ends the season, and the intensity and focus of each game is ratcheted up this time of year.
“It’s the tournament, everything is done at a higher level,” said Rockport head coach Dave Curley, whose Vikings are playing in the state tournament for the fifth straight season. “The speed of play is higher as is the importance of attention to detail and of course the competition is always sharper. One and done changes the whole mental component of the game.”
The MIAA state tournament pairings were released on Wednesday with both Gloucester and Rockport receiving very tough draws.
Gloucester (7-6-3) drew the No. 13 seed in Division 2 North and will travel to No. 4 Concord Carlisle (13-1-2) on Sunday (Time TBA). Rockport earned the No. 2 seed in Division 4 North and will host No. 15 Lynn Tech on Saturday (5 p.m.).
The Fishermen’s first round draw is particularly tough as Concord Carlisle is universally seen as one of the top programs in the state and may also be considered the favorite to run through the Division 2 North bracket before the playoffs begin.
The Patriots pal in the shark tank that is the Dual County League, one of if not the most treacherous soccer conferences in the state, and boast wins over powerhouse programs such as Lincoln-Sudbury, Weston, Acton-Boxborough and Bedford. Concord Carlisle has not dropped a contest since losing its season opener to Cambridge on September 7.
Gloucester, on the other hand, enters the tournament reeling a bit having lost its final three regular season games to tournament teams Danvers, St. Mary’s and Marblehead. The Fishermen will have to play a near perfect game to knock off the Patriots on the road, but they have proven to get better as games wear on all season and have a defensive unit that can run with any offense.