By Conor Walsh Correspondent
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — ROCKPORT — If the Rockport boys soccer team proved one thing yesterday afternoon, it’s that it’s going to take a lot more than a strong opponent and bad weather to derail its current hot streak.
Behind two goals from Nick Laverde and a dominant team performance, the Vikings earned their sixth-consecutive win to remain atop the CAL Small when they rolled past visiting Newburyport, 3-0, at Rockport High School.
“I’m really pleased with today’s effort,” Rockport coach David Curley said. “Newburyport, in my opinion, is the hardest-working team in the league, and I think you’ve got to put our guys right there with them now.
“My guys are just playing really, really well together and they’re buying into the systems we’re playing.”
On paper, yesterday’s matchup looked to be a tight one for Rockport — especially considering the fact that they were coming off tough opponents in Hamilton-Wenham and North Reading over the last week.
The Clippers are traditionally strong, and with them trotting out a tough, talented squad yesterday, it seemed Rockport would need a complete performance to come away with another win.
Well, the Vikings got that kind of performance. They got on the board just six minutes into the game, when midfielder Kyle Hurst took a beautiful cross-field pass from Conor Douglass and, sliding through the penalty box, flicked the ball into the corner of the net to give the Vikings a lead they wouldn’t look back from.
Midway through the first half, Rockport connected again. And, again, Douglass was the catalyst. The senior co-captain sent another cross into the penalty box, where Laverde connected to give the Vikings a commanding lead.
Laverde wrapped up the day’s scoring three minutes into the second half, when — surprise, surprise — Douglass found him again for another tally to give Rockport (7-1) a commanding lead.
For the Vikings backline, it was a tough act to match by its offensive counterparts. They found a way, though, to stand up to Laverde’s two goals and Douglass’ three helpers.
Led by senior defender Caden Tibert — who nearly single-handedly stifled Adam Traxler, Newburyport’s explosive striker — the Vikings strung together a gritty, workmanlike defensive performance. Newburyport’s handful of scoring chances often came at sharp angles or from outside of the penalty box, and goalkeeper Eric Littlefield was there to turn away anything that slipped through his backline.
“We’re a skilled team, but we do not have a gamebreaker out there,” Curley said. “Why we’ve gone on this little run here is that they realized that we’ve got to outwork, outsmart, out-talk the opposition. We need to bring our A game every single game, anything less and we’re not going to win.
“This team has to scratch and claw for everything, and they’re really a hard-working, lunch-pail crew that works hard. I’m really, really pleased.”
Understandably, Newburyport coach Shawn Bleau was far from as jovial as Curley. After starting the season with four-straight victories, the Clippers (5-3-1) have won just one of their last five games.
The center of that struggle can be found in the Clippers’ backline, as in their two games this week — they played Manchester Essex to a 4-4 draw Monday — they’ve surrendered seven goals.
As Newburyport moves forward in its CAL slate, Bleau knows his team must clean up its defense if it wants to climb back up the standings.
“I thought we played a pretty good game, but defensively we had some breakdowns,” Bleau said. “We have to solve our defense. We gave up four to Manchester and now three to Rockport, and we’re a better team than that.”