When asked to describe his group of nine seniors in one word, Rockport boys soccer coach David Curley paused and stared at the treeline adjacent to the Vikings’ soccer field.
Curley’s been through it all with this group. A Division 3 North championship. Two trips to the Division 3 North final. Three deep trips in the state tournament. Fifty-seven wins to date, with at least three more games to be played.
As it turns out, there’s no one word to describe them.
“They’re athletic, they’re competitive, they’re mentally tough, they’re versatile, they’re unselfish,” Curley finally said. “And as a result of the experiences they’ve had, they’re, as high school soccer players go, wise.”
Wise. A word not usually associated with a group of teenagers.
But, on the soccer field at least, it seems to fit the Vikings’ veterans.
That wisdom has led Rockport to the cusp of a CAL Small title. It allowed the Vikings to avenge a 6-1 loss to Ipswich early in the season with a 2-0 win over the Tigers last week. It helped them bounce back from a disappointing shutout loss to Georgetown last week, just days after clinching a tournament berth, with that win over Ipswich.
And it’s put the Vikings (11-4-1) in a spot to make a run at another deep run in the state tournament.
“They’re able to draw on their past experiences,” Curley said. “It’s an expression that I’ve used in teaching and working with athletes. ‘You don’t get smarter, necessarily. You get wiser.’ Of these nine seniors, they’ve been involved in the program since they were freshmen so there’s a lot of wisdom there.
“When they were freshmen, they were in the North finals. When they were sophomores, they were North champions and state semifinalists, and last year, they went to the North semifinals and lost to the eventual Eastern Mass. champions (Georgetown). They are wise, and they do draw on that.”
While veteran experience has certainly played a role in the Vikings’ success this season, though, it’s been their athleticism that’s driven them to the top of the CAL.
Sure, every team has athletes. But there’s a difference between simply having athletes and having athleticism.
Senior co-captains Tucker Meredith and Conor Douglass are three-sport athletes for the Vikings, as is senior defender Nick Scatterday. The rest of the senior class, Curley said, either play another sport for Rockport or are on the field for club soccer teams year-round.
“The thing that comes to my mind about this group of seniors is that they’re athletes,” Curley said. “They all play baseball or basketball or something else. They’re multi-sport athletes and they like to compete. They compete when we’re out here at practice.
“We do not have a star. We have a bunch of very good players and kids that like to play together. They’re unselfish. They’re not backs, they’re not midfielders, they’re not strikers. They’re soccer players.”
The evidence of that versatility litters the field each time the Vikings step onto it.
There’s the team’s emotional leader in Meredith, a tall, imposing figure in the midfield who keeps Vikings’ possessions alive and is an opponent’s nightmare when the ball’s in the air.
“This guy,” Douglass said of Meredith, “he gets everyone going.”
Then there’s Douglass, a two-year captain whose creativity and nose for the goal have yielded countless scoring chances this season.
The list goes on. Striker Nick Laverde couples with Douglass to dominate opponents with his speed. Senior defenders Matt Rostowski, Caden Tibert and Scatterday — who Meredith and Douglass described as the locker room’s go-to for comedy — have all converted from other positions to the backline seamlessly, helping Rockport hold 11 opponents to one or fewer goals this season.
In fact, Rostowski has even transitioned from striker last season to sweeper this year, polar opposite positions. And he’s been a force.
Sprinkle in the aggressive play of vocal goalkeeper Eric Littlefield and the grittiness of midfielders Luke Catena and Kyle Hurst, and it’s no surprise that the Vikings again appear on a collision course with the brass of the state’s Division 3 programs.
And with their well-rounded talent comes what truly makes the Vikings tick: They are, in every sense of the word, a team.
“We’ve been playing together our whole lives,” Meredith said. “We’ve definitely got a lot of chemistry.”
“We’re basically a family,” Douglass added. “We all hang out on weekend together and, on the field, we’re just one team. In tight situations we always come together.”
That camaraderie is sure to be tested in the coming weeks. As the Vikings finish up their CAL slate this week with games against Lynnfield and Amesbury, the promise of another day will soon be replaced by the one-and-done pressure of the state tournament.
As the nine seniors gear up for their final trip to the state tournament, the goal is simple.
“Definitely trying to make a deep run and see if we can go all the way,” Douglass said.
They’ve been there before. They’ve gone through the ups and downs together, and they’re already the winningest group of Curley’s decades on the Vikings’ bench.
All that Curley’s nine seniors are looking for now is another piece of hardware in Rockport High School’s trophy case to cap off a decorated four-year stint.
“I feel a connection with all of my teams, they all have their own personality and identity,” Curley said. “But this group, we’ve shared the most positive times together. I haven’t had a class that has been as blessed as this group is with their talent and their mentors.”