(Video highlights courtesy of the Needham Channel)
NEEDHAM, Mass, -- The Needham Rockets caused what should be another shake-up at the top of the ESPN Boston boys' soccer poll and a certain shift in the Bay State Conference standings with a 1-0 win over No. 1 Weymouth on Tuesday night at Memorial Park.
Mac Steeves scored the game’s lone goal for the No. 6 Rockets on a well-struck shot into the bottom corner that took a slight deflection to sneak under the body of Weymouth keeper Lucas Rezende-Verge. Senior Jack Nardi got the assist on the goal.
Steeves created several other chances for himself in the first half, but struggled to keep the ball on frame as Rezende-Vega would only be called into action twice in the game. In the second half, Needham (11-1-3) pushed numbers behind the ball and soaked up Weymouth pressure. Steeves was called into action on the defensive side and won a number of headers in his own box against Wildcats star forward Mike Lynch.
Needham coach Don Brock, who saw his team give up a 1-0 lead in the teams’ first meeting, was happy to see the Rockets hold on defensively.
“We knew it was going to be a good ballgame. Wish we could have put a couple more in, but we kept them off the board. The defense has been playing well the last six or seven games.”
Needham’s goalscorer was glad to get a win over Weymouth, but just as happy to see his three fellow captains (Sam Tillotson, Brandon Miskin, and William Corkery) on the field together. Steeves pointed out, “This is our first game that we’ve actually had everyone healthy on the team. As a group collectively, I think we played great. It’s the first time this season we’ve gotten to play together.”
The Wildcats (12-1-3) showed tenacity and urgency down the stretch as they tried to find an equalizer, but the Needham defense limited Weymouth, almost exclusively, to shots from long distance. The best chances for Weymouth came in the final minutes of each half.
Senior forward Akere Tambi turned his defender inside the box, but skied his shot over the bar with nearly the last kick of the first half. In the dying moments of the game, midfielder Joshua Berg had a shot on the half-volley, but was not able to put the shot on target.
It was a frustrating game for head coach Bill McEachern but one that is typical of the rivalry and the level of respect each program has for its counterpart.
“When you get a big match like this it’s who works to get the bounces. Mac [Steeves] worked for it, under high pressure and he’s that kind of player that he can put it away."
McEachern added with a wry smile, "There is a lot of respect, but it was a big challenge for us and a tough situation but…we’ll see them again."
During the postgame handshake, most of the players shared the same sentiments.
Needham goalie Kevin Macmillan kept his shutout streak alive with five saves, the best of which may have been his quick reactions to a Lynch free kick just 10 minutes into the game.
Weymouth is now a point behind Needham in the BSC standings with three league matches remaining. Next up for the Wildcats is a game Thursday against Brookline.
Needham will host Braintree on Senior Day, Thursday, at DeFazio Field.