, Gloucester, MA

June 22, 2013

Favorite Moment: Rockport soccer makes another big tournament run

By Conor Walsh

---- — In theory, it would be easy to come up with a top moment of the 2012-2013 high school sports season.

That is, of course, until you come up with that “Oh, yeah” moment. That other game you hadn’t thought of. That one play, that one storyline, that had escaped your memory at first thought.

So I’m just going to go with my gut. And for my money, my favorite moment of this sports season was the postseason run by the Rockport boys soccer team.

To be fair, the fall of 2012 wasn’t the most decorated season for the Vikings under storied coach Dave Curley. Over his decades steering the ship from the Vikings’ bench, Rockport has established itself as a soccer powerhouse in Division 3 North.

But even though the Vikings’ season, which ended with a loss to Weston in the Division 3 North semifinals, might not have ended with the same kind of hardware as some previous seasons, it doesn’t take away from how exciting their run last fall was.

It all started with a phenomenal regular season. With nine seniors on the Rockport roster, Cape Ann League opponents were certainly anticipating the Vikings to make life difficult on them.

And they sure did. The Vikings went 12-4-2 during the regular season — and 10-4-2 in the CAL — en route to a CAL Small title and the No. 5 seed in the Division 3 North tournament.

That’s where the real fun began. In my mind, the most exciting game I saw all season was Rockport’s first round win over CAL rival and No. 12 seed North Reading. Playing in their final home game of the season, the Vikings got everything they could handle from North Reading but found a way to come out with the win.

Senior co-captain Tucker Meredith landed a header for the game’s only goal and senior goalkeeper Eric Littlefield made a handful of unreal saves to grab the 1-0 win.

The Vikings followed up that impressive victory with another white-knuckle affair against No. 4 St. Mary’s at Manning Field in Lynn. With the weather getting colder in early November — this was a night game on a particularly cold night — the play on the field remained white hot.

St. Mary’s showed the Vikings why they were such a high seed throughout the game, using their speed and some serious skill up top to put plenty of chances on Littlefield.

Littlefield and the team’s veteran backline found a way to keep St. Mary’s off the scoreboard, though, and eventually the CAL’s best one-two punch of Shaun Aspesi and Conor Douglass struck. In a 2-on-4 situation at midfield, Aspesi settled a pass and surveyed the field before walking up the left side of the field.

Eventually, he flicked a beauty of a pass over the St. Mary’s backline and found a streaking Douglass, who touched it into the net to give the Vikings another thrilling 1-0 win.

It all ended after that when Weston — a longtime Division 3 rival of the Vikings’ — popped two goals past Rockport to move on to the North championship game.

But while the season may have ended earlier than the Vikings had planned, it doesn’t take away from how impressive, and exciting, their playoff run was.

Rockport soccer has grown accustomed to those kinds of postseasons. This may have been just another, but for me, that took nothing away from what a great run the latest group of Vikings put together in the state tournament.