LYNN -- As the field narrows in the Division 3 North boys soccer tournament, the same handful of teams always seems to be there.
Rockport is one. St. Mary’s of Lynn is another.
It’s no surprise, then, that the Vikings were expecting a battle when the two teams met in the Division 3 North quarterfinals at Manning Field last night.
And what a battle it was. Fifth-seeded Rockport got out in front on a Conor Douglass goal in the second minute of the second half and survived a late push by the No. 4 seed Spartans to advance to the North semifinals with a 1-0 win.
“Two years ago, we beat these guys for the North championship,” Rockport coach Dave Curley said. “This team mirrors us. Coach [Mike] D’Agostino took the program over four years ago and he’s really got these kids playing well. We expected it to be like this.”
From the opening kickoff, the parity on the field was obvious. Rockport’s crisp, controlled style and steady defense was countered by St. Mary’s physical play and vertical, quick-hitting attack.
And after the Vikings were unable to convert on three great opportunities in the first three minutes of the game, it was clear they were in for a dogfight.
As the teams traded chances in a scoreless first half, the importance of the game’s first goal couldn’t be overlooked.
Fortunately for Rockport, the Vikings struck first. After a St. Mary’s corner kick was cleared away from goalkeeper Eric Littlefield, forward Shaun Aspesi corralled a long pass at midfield and attacked four Spartan defenders with Douglass to his right.
The gifted junior maneuvered his way through the St. Mary’s backline and threaded a beautiful ball over the top to Douglass. The CAL Small Player of the Year settled the ball at the top of the penalty box and slid it past the Spartan’s charging goalkeeper to put the Vikings on top for good.