In 2018, the Rockport boys soccer team survived the rigors of the Cape Ann League and qualified for the Division 4 North State Tournament. In 2019, head coach Dave Curley has most of that nucleus back in the fold, one year older and with another year of experience.
"We're fortunate to have a deep team this year," said Curley, who is entering his 31st season as Vikings head coach. "It's a competitive team and they're pushing each other in the preseason."
The Vikings open up the regular season on Wednesday at Hamilton-Wenham (3:45 p.m.), the start of a crowded early season schedule that features eight games in a 17 day stretch to open up the season. All but one is a Cape Ann League game.
"We are going to need to be deep with this early schedule," Curley said. "But every team in the CAL is in the same boat, facing the same circumstances."
Rockport once again looks to be very strong on the defensive end of the field led by two of its captains on the back line in senior Dillon VanDerPool and junior sweeper Austin Matus. Both players are entering their fourth year of varsity soccer. Seniors Tom Micalizzi and Colt Roller will also play key roles on the back line along with juniors Noah Cook and Jamison Wrinn.
Junior Camden Wheeler returns in goal and Curley lauded his keeper for the improvements he has shown early in the season after a rock solid year in 2018, his first as a starter.
Senior captain Adam Ramsden, another four-year varsity player, leads a strong and experienced crop of midfielders. Seniors Cal Twombly and Ivo Allen are also key cogs in the Rockport midfield along with junior Frew Rowen and sophomore Colby Kelly.
At striker, seniors Nick Costa and Andrew Guelli along with juniors Kyle Beal and Colin Schrafft will all see time up top.
"We have seniors with experience at every position," Curley said. "And the juniors are really pushing them at practice. But the great thing is they're all helping each other. They all know what needs to be done to have a competitive season."
The Vikings have an important test right off the bat at Hamilton-Wenham on Wednesday as the Generals have been near the top of the CAL Baker standings in recent season. Manchester Essex is the defending champ while Georgetown and Ipswich have been very competitive against Rockport in recent seasons.
"The CAL is what it always is," Curley said. "I think a lot of teams in the Baker Division are very close. Until someone knocks off Manchester Essex they're the favorite."
Twombly steps in as girls head coach
The Vikings girls enter the 2019 season with a first year head coach, but someone who is a very familiar face in the program. Greg Twombly steps in as head coach after serving as coach Anthony Covelli's assistant a year ago.
Twombly is already familiar with a roster that has a strong nucleus returning from last season.
"I'm really happy with the senior leadership and the upperclassmen," Twombly said. "There are a lot of athletes on the team and they've brought that competitive effort and attitude to practice every day."
The Vikings look to be strong on the defensive end of the field with senior captain Ari Bouchie returning to the fold along with junior Hailey Faulds, a two-time Cape Ann League All-Star.
Senior captain Rosie McNiff leads the way in the midfield and is one of Rockport's top offensive threats along with junior Emma Christopher.
"We have a nice mix of sophomores and juniors to go with the senior leaders," Twombly said. "Our returning starters have looked good and some underclassmen are stepping into larger roles. We are taking it day-by-day."
Rockport is looking to be in the mix for a tournament berth this season. In 2018, the team won only two games but was much more competitive than its record shows.
Amesbury and Manchester Essex have been battling for the top spot in the league over the last few seasons with Rockport, Hamilton-Wenham, Ipswich and Georgetown all competing for the next spot.
"There are a lot of strong teams in the league and it will be very competitive just like last year," Twombly said. "We want to improve from last season and hopefully by the end of the year we are in the mix."
Rockport soccer at a glance
Head Coach: Dave Curley (30th season)
Last Year's Record: 9-8-3 (Lost to St. Mary's in Division 4 North First Round)
Captains: Adam Ramsden, Sr., Mid.; Dillon VanDerPool, Sr., Def.; Austin Matus, Jr., Def.
Key Returning Players: Nick Costa, Sr., Striker; Andrew Guelli, Sr., Striker; Tom Micalizzi, Sr., Def.; Cal Twombly, Sr., Mid.; Charlie Prentiss, Sr., Mid.; Kyle Beal, Jr., Striker; Sam Lemond, Jr., Mid.; Frew Rowen, Jr., Mid.; Colin Schrafft, Jr., Striker; Camden Wheeler, Jr., G.
Strengths: The Vikings roster is loaded with upperclassmen, a lot of them with multiple years of varsity experience.
Concerns: The team is being thrown into the fire with a crowded schedule in the opening weeks and already has a few key injuries sustained in the preseason.
Coach's Outlook: "We're an older team than we have been over the last few seasons and as a result we're wiser. We have eight seniors on the team and eight juniors that can play too. They know what it's like to play in the league and they want to improve from last season."
Season Opener: Wednesday at Hamilton-Wenham (3:45 p.m.)
Head Coach: Greg Twombly (1st season)
Last Year's Record: 2-12-4
Captains: Ari Bouchie, Sr., Def.; Rosie McNiff, Sr., Midfield.
Key Returning Players: Emma Christopher, Jr., Mid; Hailey Faulds, Jr., Def.; Abby Mellen, Soph., Mid.; Kylie Schrock, Soph., Striker.
Strengths: The Vikings have experience at every layer of the field and have shown a great work ethic at practice.
Concerns: The team is looking to score more goals in 2019 after struggling in that area a season ago.
Coach's Outlook: "We have a good mix of younger and older players and so far they're really putting in the time to get better. The tournament is always the long term goal and we want to improve from last season."
Season Opener: Wednesday vs. Hamilton-Wenham (6:30 p.m.).