By Nick Curcuru
---- — ROCKPORT — Rockport head boys soccer coach Dave Curley called Monday’s Cape Ann League Small showdown with Ipswich a tale of two halves.
The Vikings turned in a great effort in the second half controlling play territorially while outscoring the Tigers 2-0. The first half, however, was all Ipswich as the Tigers used their speed advantage to take a 3-0 lead into the break en route to a 3-2 win at Rockport High School.
The win moves Ipswich to 2-0 on the young season and to the top of the Cape Ann League Small, Rockport falls to 1-1 in a brutally tough two game stretch to start the year against Georgetown and the Tigers.
“I thought the kids were prepared and ready to play, but just came out a little overzealous,” Curley said. “We were running around and chasing the ball too much and against a team with Ipswich’s speed that’s going to hurt you, and they made us pay. But I did like the way we settled down in the second half. It was a tough early schedule for us against Georgetown and Ipswich but I’m glad we were tested out of the gates because we will be better in the long run as a result of it.”
Ipswich’s speed was on display in the first half and it only took them seven minutes to get on the board when Matt Jaeger outraced a pair of Vikings defenders after a misplayed long ball and put it in the back of the net for a 1-0 Ipswich lead.
The teams traded opportunities for the next 20 minutes, but in the 28th minute Jaeger struck again after a free kick bounced off of a couple Rockport defenders in the box right onto Jaeger’s foot for his second goal of the half.
Jaeger would complete the hat trick just one minute later on a similar play to his first goal making it 3-0 and the rout appeared to be on.
“We were able to use our speed up top in the first half and really let the ball do most of the work,” Tigers head coach Jon Keefe said. “We were hitting some long balls and when our guys play the ball at full speed it’s tough to stop.”
While Ipswich dominated on the scoreboard, Rockport had a few quality scoring chances of its own but could not convert.
“Ipswich scored on three of its four first half opportunities and we couldn’t convert on any of our four,” Curley said. “Yes we had some trouble defensively in the first half but we also didn’t finish. If we convert on one of our opportunities maybe that demoralizes them instead of the other way around.”
The game appeared to be over and done with at the break, but the Vikings would not go quietly and stepped up their game over the final 40 minutes of play. Instead of chasing the ball Rockport settled down, kept its composure and started executing its game plan, which consists of precision passing and position.
Junior Mike McCarthy cut the Ipswich lead to 3-1 just three minutes into the second half when he gathered a free kick in the box and buried the shot. Just four minutes later the Vikings struck again when McCarthy hit senior captain Shaun Aspesi in the box with a perfect cross. Aspesi finished the job and all of a sudden the Ipswich lead dwindled to just one goal at 3-2.
“It was nice to see the kids pick it up in the second half,” Curley said. “Not just energy level but execution too. They weren’t running around, they were stringing passes together and you could see the difference.”
Rockport had a few more opportunities in the second half, but Ipswich thwarted each one of them and even began to tilt play a bit in their favor in the final 10 minutes of play. The Vikings put together one last offensive flurry in stoppage time but could not convert and Ipswich held on for the win.
“They put a lot of pressure on our back four in the second half,” Keefe said. “They definitely adjusted and caused some havoc for us. But we did a good job keeping our composure, it was a great game.”