ROCKPORT— One sign of a good team is the way it handles adversity.
In Saturday night’s Division 4 North First Round tilt between No. 2 Rockport and No. 15 Lynn Tech at Rockport High School, the heavily favored Vikings handled some adversity and showed why they were crowned Cape Ann League Small champions in the regular season.
Although it controlled play from start to finish, Rockport found itself tied at 1-1 with 10 minutes to play in the first half after the Tigers scored off of a corner kick opportunity. Lynn Tech had the momentum at the time, but the Vikings made sure the game swung back in their favor.
Two goals followed in the next six minutes and the home team held onto that advantage for the entire second half en route to a 3-1 win. The win moves Rockport (13-4-2) to the Division 4 North Quarterfinals where it will host No. 7 Hamilton-Wenham tonight at Rockport High School (6 p.m.).
“I think we kind of relaxed a little after we got up 1-0,” Vikings senior captain Jonathan Ferrante said. “But after they tied the score we knew we needed to answer quickly and we did. We were able to stay on the attack the rest of the way and come away with the win.”
A first half goal wasn’t the only thing the Vikings had to deal with on Saturday night as the win or go home scenario of the state tournament had both teams playing aggressive and physical soccer. Tensions boiled over at times and a shoving match ensued in the middle of the second half. But Rockport was able to keep its composure and never relented.
“Our physical and mental toughness was put to the test tonight,” Vikings head coach Dave Curley said. “It was a physical game at times but I was happy with the way the kids went about their game in a methodical manner. They stayed composed and played within themselves. It was a workmanlike effort. I don’t think the score shows just how much we controlled the game tonight.”
Aside from Lynn Tech’s lone goal, Rockport was in control for nearly the entire 80 minutes of play. Instead of sitting on a two-goal lead in the second half, the Vikings continued to pressure and while they only found the back of the net three times, they hit four cross bars and a pair of posts in the win.
“They say the best defense is a good offense,” Ferrante said. “We were able to stay on the attack the whole game. (Lynn Tech) got a few long balls into our end but our back line was there to take care of it every time.”
Gideon Roell gave Rockport a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute on a pass from Aspesi and it appeared to be the start of a rout. Lynn Tech, however, proved to be opportunistic thwarting several Rockport scoring chances in the next 10 minutes and finding the back of the net in the 29th minute when Aaron Rodriguez scored on a header off of a corner kick.
The Vikings, however, picked up the intensity from there and it didn’t take long for them to regain the lead. In the 32nd minute, Aspesi made it 2-1 Vikings finding the back of the net after a Vikings corner kick rattled around a few players in the box right onto the foot of the Cape Ann League’s leading scorer. Just three minutes later Rockport struck again when Aspesi pitched the ball to Ferrante, who headed the ball into the net for a 3-1 lead.
From there, Rockport controlled and while it did not find the back of the net, it had many near misses. Although Lynn Tech hung around, it never threatened in the second half and Curley was quick to praise his team for its relentless pressure.
“We have been working really hard on finishing, we didn’t exactly do that tonight but you have to recognize the way we put ourselves into a position to score and get a quality shot,” Curley said.
The Vikings have little time to celebrate the win as they are right back at it tonight at Rockport High School against Hamilton-Wenham. Rockport battled the Generals to a 1-1 tie this season and another close battle is expected.
“We had a battle with them a few weeks back and we felt like they stole a point from us,” Ferrante said. “We know we can play with them and we know it’s going to be a tough game. That’s the state tournament road, you have to keep battling every day.”