As the season winds down, the Gloucester boys soccer team is showing how much versatility it has.
The Fishermen have been comfortable playing any style, and in Wednesday's game with Swampscott at Newell Stadium they were able to grind out a 2-1 win thanks to standout defense and clutch goaltending.
It was Gloucester's third win in a row and the team improves to 7-2 on the year with one game remaining on Friday night at home against Saugus (6 p.m.).
"We knew this one was going to be a tight one," Gloucester head coach Armando Marnoto said. "Swampscott wanted that point and pressed hard at the end but we were able to hold them off."
The Fishermen were seemingly in control, leading 2-0 in the final eight minutes of play before the visiting Big Blue put on a hard charge to the finish.
Swampscott found the back of the net with seven minutes to play and the pressure kept up from there. Gloucester keeper Max Sperry, however, was able to make several big stops to preserve the Gloucester win.
Just after the goal, the Big Blue launched a shot from outside the box that hit off the crossbar. A rebound came right out to a Swampscott striker but Sperry was able to get a hand on the shot, slowing it up just enough for Jack Patten to clear it just before it hit the goal line.
With under two minutes to play, Swampscott continued to press with a free kick just outside the box. Sperry again made the stop with a dive to his right, but Swampscott was again there for a rebound chance. Sperry was able to stop that one by sacrificing his body with another dive to his right, stopping it with his chest.
Sperry did not get a ton of action for most of the night with four stops through the first 75 minutes, but he made four more saves in the final seven when the team needed it most.
"Our defense played great in front of me all game and I just knew I had to make a step up in the last few minutes and make some stops," Sperry said. "On that free kick I got my hand on the first shot and then just tried to get my body in front of the rebound any way I could."
It was an evenly played first half with both defenses keeping the opponent off the board, but Gloucester tilted the field in its favor in the second half.
After several near misses, the Fishermen finally capitalized in the 51st minute. Gerson Tiul Rax sent a pass through traffic that hit Geremy Palacios in stride. Palacios then made a move at the top of the box to get past an aggressively charging Big Blue keeper and he finished after breaking in all alone for a 1-0 lead.
The Fishermen continued to carry the play and then scored another in the 65th minute. Senior captain Owen Hardy fed Andrew Coelho on the wing, and Gloucester's leading scorer put one far post on a shot from the left wing to extend the Gloucester lead to 2-0.
"At halftime it was a real battle, back and forth and we needed our big guns to step up," Marnoto said. "We started to find success attacking them on the wings and we were able to get a couple."