Boston High School: Mac Steeves

Brock's influence reaches past sideline in Needham

November, 21, 2014
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When Needham takes the WPI pitch on Saturday evening to face Amherst in the Division 1 state championship game, the Rockets will have extra incentive to win the title. The Needham players will be trying to bring home the trophy for longtime head coach Don Brock, who will not be able to travel with the team to Worcester after being hospitalized during the South semifinal.

“It’s ‘win one for the Gipper’ you know,” said Needham assistant Jay Steeves, who has taken over head coaching duties in Brock’s absence and who is a former Needham player. “I told them that first of all you’re playing for yourselves, second of all you’re playing for Needham High School, and third of all you’re playing for Don Brock.”

Steeves remarked after beating BC High to win the South sectional he said that the team needed “two more wins for Don Brock” and after the win against St. John’s Prep in the state semifinal he added that it set up a “storybook ending.”

Senior midfielder Aram Ouligian, the latest All-American that Brock has coached in his 48-year career, added, “We played with so much heart and we outworked the other team and I think a big part was because of him; we’re playing for him.”

In nearly five decades, he has built Needham into perennial state title contenders, but when former players, coaches, and friends speak about Brock -- who is expected to make a full recovery -- it is clear that his influence extends beyond the lines on the pitch.

“He’s a teacher and a mentor first and a coach second,” said Needham girls’ soccer coach Carl Tarabelli, who was a captain on the 1977 team that went unbeaten and did not allow a goal. “At the end of the day, he treats them like adults. He holds them accountable; he wants them to take responsibility for their actions.”

Mac Steeves, the program’s all-time leading scorer and captain of the 2012 state title team, spoke about Brock’s influence in an October interview. He said, “He was definitely not just a coach, but more like a teacher. He helped me learn, kept me on the right track, and moving forward from high school to freshman year of college it definitely helped me playing under Coach Brock.”

Brock was a math teacher at the high school when he took charge of the Needham soccer program in 1966 and both Jay Steeves and Tarabelli highlighted his classroom experience as a factor in his ability to connect with high school soccer players.

“He understands kids and their mentalities and what it takes to motivate them,” said Steeves. “I have numerous stories of people coming up to him that didn’t even play for him…as a teacher and a coach he’s affected so many people. “

Steeves added that even while Brock is in the hospital his mind is still on the team.

He sent Steeves to The Needham Channel -- the public access station in town -- on Wednesday to get copies of the game (“I told him I’d swing by the Dover Market and get him a bowl of chowder and sneak the tapes in for him,” joked Steeves) and had to be told by his family and doctors that he could not stream the game live online.

“Here’s a guy that’s not 100 percent but his first question every time when I speak to him on the phone is: ‘How are the boys?’” said Steeves.

While he is able to motivate the players as a mentor, Brock also has a passion for soccer and has stayed on the forefront of tactics and training. He has had to adapt to a series of rule changes and style changes to remain on top. Whether it was the change in the pass-back rule, the attempt at instituting a 35-yard offside line, or adopting 15-minute quarters, Brock has kept the Needham program strong throughout his 48 seasons.

“He has a great analytical mind,” explained Tarabelli. “He was ahead of his time in the system that he employed even going back 30 years. He’s stayed current in the latest and greatest in training techniques. He has never sat back on his credentials.”

Tarabelli also called Brock “the Bill Parcells of high school soccer” for the number of coaches that have gone through the Needham program. He believes that 30-40 percent of the coaches in the Needham youth programs were coached by Brock, which has molded the next generation of Rockets to step in with an understanding of the Needham system and the expectations that go with being part of the program.

Brock’s influence extends well beyond Needham and even into the upper levels of U.S. soccer with former player Doug Williamson, a member of the 1968 state title-winning team, now a senior staff member at the NSCAA. Williamson still credits Brock as being an important influence.

The game has changed and the players are different, but there is continuity within the Needham program. Jay Steeves was a ball boy for the 1977 team and watched up close as Tarabelli and the Rockets went unbeaten. Mac Steeves was a ball boy before becoming the program’s leading scorer and current Rockets captain Jason Miller was a ball boy during Mac’s sophomore season.

Steeves said, “The winning attitude that [Don] instilled and the way everyone always came out and played for him; as a seventh and eighth grader that was something that I wanted to be a part of. That winning tradition has always been there.”

On Saturday in Worcester, many former Needham players will be in the stands to cheer on the current Rockets when they take the pitch. It is a tangible reminder of the legacy that Don Brock has built and that the current players are motivated to continue.

“Every team tries to be the best team that ever plays for him,” said Tarabelli. “If you go to the finals on Saturday there will be 14 of us (players from the 1977 team) that we still follow the team, we still hang out together.” Tarabelli pauses and laughs before adding, “And we still remind everybody that nobody can do what we did.”

Somerville, Franklin claim preseason poll No. 1s

September, 3, 2013
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Somerville takes over the No. 1 spot in the first ESPNBoston.com boys’ soccer Top 20 poll of the 2013 season (CLICK HERE).

The Highlanders were ranked No. 2 at the end of last season, after losing to state champion Needham in the semifinal, and bring back senior forward Thayrone Miranda, one of the most dynamic players in the state.

The defending champion Rockets drop down to no. 9 in the poll after losing 9 of 11 starters from last year’s team, including the program’s all-time leading scorer and ESPNBoston.com Mr. Soccer Mac Steeves. As many coaches have pointed out this preseason, with legendary head coach Don Brock prowling the sidelines it is impossible to count out Needham.

New Bedford and star midfielder Klisman Souza jump into the No. 2 slot on the advice of just about every coach and player that was spoken to this preseason. The Whalers have the potential and depth to be a great team, as long as they stay focused and avoid getting frustrated against teams that are going to be physical and try to kick them out of games.

FRANKLIN STILL ON TOP
On the girls’ side, defending D1 champion Franklin holds on to the No. 1 ranking that it claimed at the end of 2012 (CLICK HERE FOR POLL). Although the Panthers will not have prolific, All-American forward Kristi Kirshe, Franklin brings back 8 of 11 starters and will expect junior Taylor Cogliano to provide the team with offensive punch.

As one coach put it, “The road to the D1 title still runs through Franklin.”

A number of the teams that held on to top spots last year have dropped because of the graduation of superstars (more on that below), including No. 9 Medfield, which went unbeaten in winning the D2 title. The Warriors could very well be at the top of the poll at the end of the year but, with five freshmen on the roster and a host of players taking on more responsibility, it may be a while before Medfield reaches its potential.

Needham is a team to watch out for this season with junior midfielder Kayla Steeves and sophomore forward Rachel Kingston, among others. The Rockets could make a run similar to the one that the Needham boys went on last season. Other teams making preseason noise are Winchester and North Andover, which each drew praise from opposing coaches over the past two weeks.

Needham's Steeves is ESPN Boston Mr. Soccer

December, 11, 2012
12/11/12
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ESPNBoston.com and its High School section today announced that Mac Steeves, senior striker of the Needham Rockets, is the recipient of its first-ever "Mr. Soccer" award, which will be presented annually to the top high school soccer player in Massachusetts.

[+] EnlargeMac Steeve
Courtesy of Josh PerryNeedham captain Mac Steeve led the Rockets to a Division I state title and will play soccer at Providence College next year. .
The Mr. Soccer award winner was chosen by a panel of experts made up of ESPNBoston.com staff and correspondents. Steeves will be presented the award at a later date.

“Mac was the best player on the best team in the state,” ESPN Boston High Schools soccer correspondent Josh Perry said. “He has great touch for someone his size, a powerful shot and surprising quickness when taking on defenders. Not to mention, he was pretty handy as a defensive midfielder when Needham was protecting a late lead.”

Steeves, a four-year varsity starter, capped his prolific high school career with a strong run in the Rockets’ MIAA Division 1 state championship season. The All-American was named the MIAA tournament’s MVP, matching his father Jay’s accomplishment in 1983. He will play soccer at Providence College next year.

For his career, Steeves finished as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 67 goals and 51 assists for 118 points after a 20-goal, 25-assist season in 2012.

But, according to legendary Rockets head coach Don Brock, what made Steeves so dynamic in his Needham career was his ability to play multiple positions.

“Many times during the year and through the tournament, we gave him the green light to move back and play defense, like he did against Somerville and Amherst [state championship match] in the final eight minutes,” said Brock, who completed his 45th year with the program this year. “I’ll probably never have another player quite like him.”

Those aren’t the only attributes which made Steeves special in Brock’s eyes.

“Of all the key things about him, the best is that he was supposed to play academy and he chose to play high school,” Brock said. “Thank god for us he chose to do that. Without him, we don’t win the state championship without him scoring the last three goals.”

Mr. and Miss Soccer finalists announced

November, 20, 2012
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For the first time in site history, we're pleased to announce that ESPN Boston will honor the top boys' and girls' MIAA soccer player with its first-ever Mr. and Miss Soccer Awards this year.

The winners will be announced on Monday, Dec. 3, but we've whittled down our lists to a final five candidates today.

Without further ado:

MR. SOCCER FINALISTS:
Felix DeBona, Sr. F, Somerville
- The D1 North champions were led by DeBona's 29 goals, including the lone goal against St. John's Prep that clinched the sectional title. DeBona's scoring propelled the Highlanders to 15th in the NSCAA national rankings, a Greater Boston League title, and an undefeated regular season.

Dave MacKinnon, Sr. GK, Oliver Ames - MacKinnon was named an All-American for his commanding play in net for the Davenport division champions. He gave up only four goals during the regular season with 13 shutouts and was named the Hockomock League MVP. In the playoffs, MacKinnon's save during the shootout helped the Tigers beat league rival Franklin in the opening round.

Nate Pomeroy, Sr. F, Groton-Dunstable - Pomeroy, who is bound for Brown University next season, notched two goals in the D2 state finals to clinch back-to-back titles for the Crusaders. Pomeroy was named to the All-New England team and named Mid-Wach B MVP this season. He had eight goals in the 2012 postseason run.

Cody Savonen, Sr. F, Nauset - Savonen led Nauset to the D1 South sectional quarterfinals and eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the season. He had a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Plymouth South that wrapped up the third Atlantic Coast League title of his career and scored the winner in the opening playoff game against Wellesley.

[+] EnlargeMac Steeve
Courtesy of Josh PerryNeedham senior captain Mac Steeve led the Rockets to a Division I state title and is a finalist for our inaugural Mr. Soccer Award.
Mac Steeves, Sr. F, Needham - The Rockets all-time leading scorer was named an All-American this season and led Needham to the Division 1 state title. Steeves also showed his ability to step up in big games. He scored both goals (and drew the penalty for the second) against Somerville in the state semifinals and scored the winning goal in the state finals against Amherst.

Honorable Mentions: Osla DeBrito (New Bedford), Mike Lynch (Weymouth), Thayrone Miranda (Somerville), Brandon Miskin (Needham), Ryan Rose (Acton-Boxborough), Justin Rothemich (Sutton), Zach Scafati (Franklin), Stowe Simonton (Concord-Carlisle), Dave Stapleton (Oliver Ames), Brandon Vazquez (Amherst).

MISS SOCCER FINALISTS:
Lauren Berman, Sr. F, Canton - With over 40 goals this season, Berman was the standout player for the Davenport division champions and a Hockomock League All-Star. Berman's accomplishments earned her All-American status and she will be playing in the ACC for the University of Maryland next season. She finished her career with over 130 goals.

Kristi Kirshe Sr. F, Franklin - Kirshe eclipsed the 100-goal plateau for her career during the D1 playoffs. She scored in the state semifinal and scored both goals to lead the Panthers to the program's first-ever state title.She is an All-American as well as the state MVP. Compiling more than 30 goals this season, Kirshe helped a young Franklin team to an undefeated season.

Jen Narlee, Sr. M, Medfield - Narlee is the leader of a very strong defensive unit for the D2 state champions. A physical presence in the center of the field, Narlee does many of the little things that do not get on the scoresheet. Many of the Warriors' opponents saw their attacks snuffed out by Narlee's positional play. That strong defense has helped Medfield win two of the past three state titles.

Andrea O'Brien, Sr. F, Concord-Carlisle - O'Brien finished her career with over 100 goals and will take her talents to Boston College next year. An All-New England selection and submitted for All-American consideration, O'Brien helped lead the Patriots to a Dual County League title and to the second round of the tournament.

Kimberly Slade, Sr. F, Nashoba - Slade is one of the brightest stars in the Central region. The senior forward was an All-New England selection and her playmaking ability helped lead the Chieftains to a sectional title and trip to the state championship game, where she scored the team's only goal.

Honorable Mentions: Kendall Andrew (Oliver Ames), Mimi Borkan (Medfield), Jillian Cavanaugh (Belchertown), Taylor Cogliano (Franklin), Laura Courtney (Nashoba), Hayley Dowd (Peabody), Caitlin Harty (Beverly), Maddie Jolin (Bishop Feehan), Alexa Poulin (Central Catholic), Kayla Steeves (Needham).

D1 boys soccer: Needham 1, Amherst 0

November, 16, 2012
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WORCESTER, Mass. -- The Steeves family has a history with Worcester State University's Coughlin Field.

While he was a player for Needham, Jay Steeves, who currently serves as an assistant coach with the Rockets, lost a state final in the dying seconds on that very pitch.

On Friday night, his son Mac wrote a new history for himself and the Rockets.

Mac Steeves scored a stunning late goal to lift the Rockets (21-1-3) to a 1-0 victory over Amherst (12-3-5) and clinched the program’s fourth state title in its seventh championship game appearance.

In the process, Steeves cemented his legacy as the best soccer player in the long and proud history of Needham High.

Head coach Don Brock -- who is not only the soccer program’s only coach, but also its founder -- knew that Steeves would be able to come through for the team in the big game.

“To get the winning goal is pretty special," Brock said. "He’s been playing hurt. We got so beat up from the South (sectional) I’m surprised he played as well as he did, but he came through. He’s done it all year long.”

Following the game, a bruised and battered Steeves reflected on an amazing four year run at Needham High.

“It means a whole lot," he said. "I’m at a loss for words...I’m so excited right now. It’s a dream come true really. It’s amazing.”

The goal came with only 11 minutes remaining. Senior captain Will Corkery played a long ball over the top and Steeves raced alongside the last defender. With goalkeeper Curtis Barnes bearing down on him, Steeves lifted a high chip into the box that bounced once before ending up in the back of the net.

It was an instinctive play all-around. Steeves, who was injured in the collision with Barnes but returned to the game, could not describe the play in detail, but Corkery explained that it developed from years of playing togther.

“We’ve played with each other since fourth grade so we have great chemistry and that obviously showed there," Corkery said. "I didn’t even hear him yell, I just knew he’d be there.”

Despite Needham taking a late lead, Amherst continued to battle and with mere seconds remaining had another chance for Cody Baglow to get in another long flip-throw. The ball bounced of Rockets, Hurricanes, the referee, and then sat in the Needham penalty area for what felt like minutes before finally being cleared away.

As soon as the ball was rifled down field, the ref blew three short bursts and one long, shrill whistle sending the Needham bench and the huge contingent of Rockets fans storming onto the field.

Although the game ended in defeat, there was a lot of positives for head coach Mike Rudd and the rest of the Hurricanes to take from the game.

“I was very proud of the boys tonight," Rudd said. "We played a great Needham team, certainly the best team we’ve seen this season. We stuck around, we played hard, tried to play with purpose, tried to possess, but we played a very good opponent.”

The game was played at a high pace, but both teams struggled to create chances. In fact, both keepers finished with one save apiece.

Amherst had chances at the midway point of the second half to break the deadlock. First, on a curling shot from Eric Gooden and then just minutes later on a through ball that squirted away from Needham keeper Kevin MacMillan before being covered up.

Steeves had several chances for Needham before finally putting away the goal. In the final 20 minutes, he eluded two defenders and sent a cross straight through the box that no one could get on the end of and in the 28th minute received a pass from Brandon Miskin but flashed his shot wide of the far post.

Rudd, in his first year as Amherst head coach, led the Hurricanes to their first-ever West sectional title and upended perennial power Ludlow in the process. He hopes this will be a building block for the program.

“I did expect to be right here," he said. "Now that we have climbed that mountain of Ludlow, maybe we will be back here more often in the future.”

For Mac Steeves, and the rest of the nine seniors on the roster, this is the perfect ending to a remarkable four-year career. According to Brock, “It’s been a long stretch between...been 10 or so years since the last time we’ve been here. It’s just such a great group of kids. They work so hard."

Video: Needham captures D1 South soccer title

November, 12, 2012
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BRAINTREE, Mass. -- The Needham Channel's Michael Dermody passes along highlights from last night's Division 1 South boys soccer final between Needham and Weymouth. Needham took down the Wildcats, 2-0, on goals from Nolan Brady and Brandon Miskin, and will face Somerville in Wednesday night's D1 Eastern Mass. Final, at Manning Field in Lynn.

(Video courtesy of The Needham Channel)

Soccer: Beverly girls, Somerville boys win D1 North

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
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LYNN, Mass. -- The incredible tournament run of the Beverly Panthers continued on Sunday afternoon at Manning Field in Lynn.

The No. 4 seed Panthers took home the girls’ Division 1 North sectional title, 2-1 (4-1 in penalties), over No. 3 seed Central Catholic. All four Beverly penalty-takers made their shots, while Central missed its first two shots.

Captain Diandra Crowley calmly slotted home the final penalty setting off rapturous celebrations from her teammates and the large Beverly contingent in the stands.

The Panthers (17-3-1) reached the shootout thanks largely to a superb performance from goalkeeper Casey Cook. The junior netminder made a series of important saves including two in overtime robbing Alli Wiggins and Kylie Regan of game winners.

Beverly head coach Kristin Simpson was in awe of Cook’s play.

“She was by far the MVP of this game. We would not be where we are without her. She made some amazing saves towards the end and kept us in the game.”

The Panthers needed Cook to play well as Central Catholic (15-0-5) dominated large portions of the game, particularly in the first half. Wiggins, Regan, and midfielder Alexa Poulin pulled the strings in the center of the park and kept possession almost entirely in the Beverly half of the field.

It took half an hour, but Central Catholic was able to make the pressure pay with a goal from Alex Nagri off a great pass by Courtney Walsh. Raiders head coach Casey Grange was disappointed that her team was unable to find a second score.

“I thought we were going to get it eventually," Grange said. "This team has been patient all season in terms of scoring. We’ve always found a way to find the back of the net, but unfortunately the soccer gods weren’t on our side today."

Beverly equalized immediately after halftime through record-setting junior striker Caitlin Harty. The forward was raced on to a long pass and was able to chip the ball over the onrushing keeper despite being surrounded by two defenders.

Unbelievably, it was Harty’s 50th goal of the season, which is by a large margin a school record.

Simpson credited an improved effort by her team for changing the tone of the match after halftime.

“The biggest thing was the effort," she said. "We were losing the 50-50 balls and they were outworking us. We started yelling at them a little bit and they started winning some of the 50-50 balls and I think that made the difference.”

Central Catholic had a great chance to win the game in regulation, when Wiggins sprung free on a break following a Beverly corner, but her shot came back off the crossbar.

The Raiders will not advance in the tournament but will finish the season unbeaten (penalty shootouts do not count as losses but as draws). Amidst tears on the sideline, Grange spoke about the impressive season that her team had in 2012.

“Technically we tied and we haven’t lost all season so it’s a tough way to go out," she said. "Our defense was rock-solid, we have the top three scorers in the MVC, but unfortunately we didn’t get one when we needed it.”

It will be an all-Panthers match on Wednesday evening at Manning Field when Beverly takes on Franklin in the state semifinals. The game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.

DIVISION 1 NORTH FINAL: SOMERVILLE 1, ST. JOHN'S PREP 0

In the boys’ D1 North sectional final, the Somerville Highlanders beat St. John’s Prep 1-0 through a goal by star forward Felix De Bona two minutes into the second half.

The final score was not a true reflection of how dominant Somerville was on Sunday afternoon. The Highlanders created numerous chances, particularly the potent DeBona, but were repelled by Prep goalie Ben Alpern.

On the other end, Somerville’s defending was solid and Prep struggled to create any clear cut chances.

It has been nearly 20 years since Somerville had reached this stage of the tournament. Highlanders head coach George Scarpelli explained that he focused on keeping Prep off the board in the first half and then using the wind after the break.

“If we could get the zero in the second half then something’s going to happen and it worked out. We should’ve put some more chances away and that’s something we need to grow on for the next game because I’ll have a heart attack if we do that again.”

St. John’s Prep head coach David Crowell raved about the performance of Alpern, who took over the starting role when captain Brian Keogh was injured prior to the season.

“He kept us in the game and gave us the chance to get the tie and send it to overtime," Crowell said. "But we didn’t really produce any chances in the second half. He was awesome today.”

In reaching the finals, Prep defeated two of the top five teams in the state (No. 4 Acton-Boxborough and No. 1 Masconomet) and Crowell was surprised at his team’s nervousness in the finals.

“I don’t know why we were so tight," he said. "We’ve already come in and beaten so many good teams. I think they felt some pressure today. Somerville deserved it today.”

The Somerville players were spurred on by a huge traveling contingent of fans, which created a great atmosphere for the game. At the final whistle, the players recognized the contribution of the fans by racing over to celebrate right in front of the stands. Scarpelli believes that this result is important not only for the soccer program, but for the city as a whole.

“I don’t think people realize how much this means for the city of Somerville.," he said. "For these kids to realize that if you do the right thing, everything falls into place. Winning comes along with doing everything right and going to school on time and being a good citizen. It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

Somerville will play in the state semifinals on Wednesday night at 7:30, at Manning Field.

State Tournament Notes:

" There will be a new boys’ state champion in Division 1 this year. Two-time defending champ Ludlow Lions, perennially one of the best teams in the state, were beaten in the West sectional finals by Amherst 1-0 (7-6 in penalties). The Lions had a chance to win it in the end, only to see the shot saved. Amherst will move on to play Leominster, the surprise champions of the Central sectional, in the state semifinals on Wednesday night.

" The Franklin Panthers have continued their amazing unbeaten season and took home the South sectional with a 3-2 win over fellow Hockomock team, Oliver Ames. Franklin built a 3-0 lead early in the first half, but were forced to hold on late when the Tigers scored twice within 90 seconds late in the second half. Panthers top scorer Kristi Kirshe did not get a goal in the win and is still stuck on 99 goals in her career.

" Somerville will face the top seed in Division 1 South, the Needham Rockets, in the state semifinals. Needham earned a hard-fought 2-0 victory over conference rivals Weymouth. Senior captains Nolan Brady and Brandon Miskin getting the goals for Needham. The Rockets are a talented group front to back and, with the losses by Masconomet and Ludlow, can make a strong claim to be the best team in the state. Having one of the state’s best players, forward Mac Steeves, certainly helps their cause. Wednesday night will be exciting to watch Steeves and De Bona go head-to-head.

" As colleague Bruce Lerch tweeted earlier today, what a great year it has been for Dave Wainwright. He led the Dover-Sherborn girls’ soccer team to a state title last season, brought them back to the sectional finals this year, and also led the Needham boys’ lacrosse team to Harvard Stadium in June. While the Lady Raiders may have been beaten today, the boys’ team clinched the sectional title with a 3-0 win over top seed Nantucket.

MIAA Soccer: Needham boys blank Dartmouth

November, 10, 2012
11/10/12
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TAUNTON, Mass. -- There are certain points in a game when a goal will have the biggest impact on an opponent. Early goals, goals just before halftime, or goals coming out of the break can be devastating to the mental state of the opposing team.

The Rockets used all three on Friday night.

The Needham High boys’ soccer team picked the perfect moments to score each of its three goals in a 3-0 shutout of the No. 4 seed Dartmouth in Friday night’s Division 1 South sectional semifinal at Taunton High School.

Senior captain Will Corkery scored just 90 seconds into the game with a laser into the top corner off an assist from fellow captain Mac Steeves. The goal stunned the Indians (15-3-2), but they came back stronger and continued to push the top seed.

At the end of an even first half, the Rockets (18-1-3) struck again.

Just four minutes before the break, Hantzly Murat -- who had been on the field for less than a minute -- was in the right place to prod home the rebound of a Steeves shot to make it 2-0 going into the half. At this stage, the next goal was going to be crucial to the outcome.

Needham didn't have to wait long for that.

The Rockets effectively killed off the game two minutes into the second half when a Steeves long throw picked out an unmarked Aram Ouligiam to nod home the third. Dartmouth continued to fight and create chances, but Needham defended well and held out for the win.

Dartmouth head coach Steve Frank acknowledged after the game that heads dropped on the Indians sideline when the third goal was scored.

“That deflated them," he said. "We didn’t mark him. He had an open net to head into and you just can’t do that. You can’t do it against weak teams, never mind a great team like this one.”

While Steeves is the headliner for the Rockets, head coach Don Brock emphasized the strength the Rockets have shown defensively this season.

“They’ve been underrating our crew since we stumbled a little at the beginning of the season," he said. "This is a good squad.”

Following Corkery’s opener, Dartmouth had a series of free kicks that were played long into the box, but Needham keeper Kevin MacMillan held strong with solid catches in traffic. In the 18th minute, the Indians had their best chance at an equalizer when Nick Paine’s shot was cleared off the line by Ouligiam.

In the second half, Dartmouth also had a chance cleared off the line as Andres Pinto had a strong header blocked. Needham also had several chances to extend the lead through Nolan Brady and a Corkery free kick that curled off the crossbar.

The Indians battled an unfamiliar turf surface and the Rockets’ height advantage, but continued to fight to avoid a shutout, which impressed their coach.

“This group has been tremendous, just a pleasure to be around," Frank said. "They play hard. Up to the end we were trying to plug to get a goal so we could stop the shutout, but it wasn’t to be.”

Needham advances to the sectional finals Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at Braintree High, against Bay State Conference rivals Weymouth.

State tournament notes:

" When the Needham and Weymouth players shook hands and walked off the Memorial Field pitch after the Rockets ended the Wildcats’ very short reign as the No. 1 team in the state, both teams said, “We’ll see you in the playoffs.” Thanks to an overtime goal by senior Akere Tambi, Weymouth advanced past Oliver Ames on its home field. The Tigers took the lead twice but both times Weymouth responded and now the top two seeds will meet for the third time this season. Oliver Ames made another strong push this season, which may be its last in Division 1. Head coach Jon Barata expects the Tigers to be in D2 next season.

" The number one seed also advanced to the D1 South girls’ sectional as the Franklin Panthers continued their unbeaten season with a 2-0 win over Marshfield. Kristi Kirshe scored her 99th career goal in the Panthers victory. It will be an all-Hockomock final after Oliver Ames knocked off the No. 2 seeded Needham Rockets. The lone goal of the game was scored by senior Kendall Andrew.

" The big game in the D1 North sectional pitted No. 1 seed Masconomet (the No. 1 ranked team in the state) against fourth-seeded St. John’s Prep. The game lived up to the hype with Prep pulling the 2-1 upset and advancing to the finals on Sunday against still unbeaten Somerville. Prep has now knocked off two of the top five teams in the state to make the sectional finals (the other being Acton-Boxborough in round two). In the girls’ sectional, the Beverly Panthers continued to make a historic run as they knocked off Westford Academy 1-0 and will meet Central Catholic, who won by the same score line against Lincoln-Sudbury.

" The defending state champions are still alive, but just barely. The Ludlow Lions were pushed to overtime by Chicopee in the West sectional, but scored the golden goal to continue on, 2-1 and will face Amherst in the sectional finals. Both the Belchertown boys’ and girls’ teams continued their unbeaten runs and will head to their respective D2 West finals.

" There are a lot of conferences that get their rightful due as being competitive top to bottom, such as the Hockomock, the Bay State, and the Dual County, but the Tri-Valley league is rarely part of that conversation. This year, the TVL sent three teams into the semifinals of the D2 South boys sectional, will send the Medfield girls into the D2 South finals, and Dover-Sherborn boys and girls into the D3 finals. The league is often overlooked because it lacks a presence in D1, but it has real depth and is guaranteed at least one team taking home a sectional title this season.

" Earlier this week, star players Andrea O’Brien (Concord-Carlisle) and Hayley Dowd (Peabody) had their illustrious high school careers come to an end. On Friday night, Canton’s Lauren Berman had her season ended at the hands of Duxbury in penalties. All three crossed the 100-goal plateau in their careers and each will be headed to play in college next season (Dowd and O’Brien at Boston College, and Berman at Maryland).

Recap: Medfield blanks Dedham, plus tourney notes

November, 7, 2012
11/07/12
12:41
AM ET
MEDFIELD, Mass. -- The Medfield girls' soccer team demonstrated the importance of a dominant midfield in a 2-0 dismantling of Bay State Herget division champion Dedham on Tuesday night in a Division 2 South quarterfinal match.

Medfield (17-0-3) controlled possession and consistently stepped forward to break up Dedham attacks before they could threaten the Warriors goal. Medfield was so successful in keeping the Marauders at bay that Dedham (15-2-4) managed only one shot on goal and it came off a corner in the 76th minute.

Medfield coach Michael La Francesca highlighted the play of senior Jen Narlee as a controlling influence in the heart of the midfield that allowed the speedier wide players to create chances.

[+] EnlargeJen Narlee
Josh Perry/ESPNBoston.comMedfield's Jen Narlee helped the Warriors win the battle of the midfield in a 2-0 blanking of Dedham in Tuesday night's Division 2 quarterfinal match.
“The goal is, if you can control the ball in the middle and keep the ball on the ground, we would have more possession," La Francesca said. "If you have more of the possession - than you have more of the play.”

The Warriors took the lead in the 13th minute.

The sequence began with striker Katelyn Murray had several shots blocked on the edge of the box. The attempted clearance came right back at the Dedham defense and Murray fired in another shot that forced a good save out of Ellen Masalsky, which was turned home by senior Krista Pinciaro.

Dedham played much better in the second half and started to find openings to attack the Warriors defense. The biggest talking point of the second half came seven minutes after the break when a great through ball fed junior Libby Masalsky in behind the last defender. Medfield’s Colleen Beggan shouldered the forward off the play and Dedham’s bench cried out for a penalty.

The refs denied the appeal and called it a fair challenge. It would be the Marauders best chance until the final moments of the game.

Dedham head coach Don Savi was certainly not happy with many calls from the officials during the game, but afterwards admitted that Medfield’s defending was a much bigger factor in the final outcome.

“They’re a good defensive team. They only gave up six goals all season, we knew that. We had a couple chances, but couldn’t get an open look. It wasn’t the reason we lost, but it was a good game and we shouldn’t have an official that can’t handle it.”

The Warriors wrapped up the game in the 26th minute. Freshman Krissy Rimmel reached the end line and cut the ball back to Cami McCurdy, who opened up space on her right foot and the shot found the side netting off the fingertips of Masalsky.

Despite the loss, Savi is proud of Dedham’s achievements this season and the success this senior class has had over the past four years.

“I have nothing bad to say about this team, even tonight, they worked hard. Three league championships in four years that’s the best we’ve ever done. It’s been a fun year.”

Medfield, the No. 3 seed, will move on to face No. 7 seed East Bridgewater in the sectional semifinals. La Francesca was looking forward to the next game after beating two very tough opponents in the opening rounds.

“I do like our chances right now. We beat two of the better teams in the bracket. I’d rather play stronger teams at this point to get us ready.”

State tournament notes:
  • Medfield was not the only favorite in D2 South to advance on Tuesday. The Canton girls' soccer team, the No. 4 ranked team in the state, also moved into the sectional semifinals with a 1-0 win over Scituate. Canton will face Duxbury, which beat Holliston in the afternoon game. The expectation coming into the season was that Medfield and Canton would have to go through each other to win the sectional and right now that showdown still looms on the horizon.
  • There were shocks galore in the Central sectional as both of the top remaining seeds in the boys' soccer Division 1 bracket were knocked out on Tuesday. Worcester North, No. 10 in the state, was stunned 2-1 by Leominster (who they beat 3-0 during the regular season) and No. 20 Algonquin was beaten, 1-0, by Wachusett. The top seeds in the girls’ sectional are still alive setting up the third meeting of the season between Nashoba and Algonquin (Nashoba won each of the first two games).
  • Several ranked teams went down in the topsy-turvy and ultracompetitive D1 North girls’ sectional. Acton-Boxborough, which knocked off No. 2 Peabody on Sunday, fell to Westford Academy in penalties. Westford will face Beverly in the next round, which knocked off No. 18 Concord-Carlisle. On the other side of the bracket, No. 10 Lincoln-Sudbury beat No. 19 Newton North, 4-2, and will play No. 11 Central Catholic in the semifinals.
  • In the girls’ D1 South sectional, No. 9 Needham came from behind in the final minutes of regulation and beat North Attleborough, 2-1, in overtime. Needham coach Carl Tarabelli and North coach Bill Wallace are good friends and shared several laughs during the game. Wallace’s gameplan of limiting Needham chances and hitting on the break almost worked to perfection when senior Jamie Grinavic scored with just over 10 minutes remaining. Two headers off corners, by Katie Beval and Sammy Lerner, allowed the Rockets to avoid the upset. Needham will face No. 16 Oliver Ames after the Tigers beat No. 14 Whitman-Hanson on penalties.
  • The boys’ side of the tournament also offered some great matchups and several surprising result. In D1 North, No. 6 St. John’s Prep beat No. 4 Acton-Boxborough 1-0 and will face the No. 1 team in the state, Masconomet, in the semifinals. In the South sectional, No. 2 Needham was led by player of the year candidate Mac Steeves, who scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Marshfield. Next, the Rockets will face No. 12 Dartmouth, which dispatched No. 16 Nauset with surprising ease, 5-0. On the other side of the bracket, Weymouth and Oliver Ames will have a rematch of a regular season game that was won by Weymouth 1-0 on a scrappy goal by Mike Lynch.

Analysis: Breaking down the state soccer tournaments

November, 1, 2012
11/01/12
5:23
PM ET
The MIAA released the brackets for boys’ and girls’ soccer on Wednesday afternoon and there was instant reaction from fans, players, and coaches as everyone scrambled to see who stood in the way for a possible state title run.

The competition in each bracket is incredibly deep. Teams that are ranked in the ESPN Boston Top 20 polls are seeded as low as the teens because records are so close. There are teams that have been forced into play-in games that will pose serious threats to the sectional favorites.

There is little doubt that the girls’ Division 1 North and the boys’ D1 South brackets are the hardest and deepest sectionals in the tournament this season. Each game will be a battle and top-to-bottom there are no easy games in either sectional.

That contrasts the sectionals in the Central and West, which are also competitive, but feature far fewer teams and thus far fewer games to reach the state semifinals.

The first round of the girls’ D1 North sectional could feature a rematch of No. 2 Peabody against the only team to get the better of it this season, Acton-Boxborough. Meanwhile, Central Catholic could also face a very tough Andover team, which has sat just outside the rankings for much of the year.

The boys’ D1 South bracket has the potential for a number of exciting early-round matches that feature ranked teams such as New Bedford against Oliver Ames, Weymouth against BC High, and Dartmouth versus Nauset.

The D1 state semifinals and finals could be especially interesting this year with possible battles between nationally ranked girls’ teams in Franklin and Peabody and a potential rematch of last year’s state semifinal that ended with Ludlow and Worcester North players and fans fighting on the pitch.

Each bracket also has its fill of dark horses.

Watch out for the unranked Franklin boys, who play a solid defensive game and can surprise a higher ranked team. On the girls’ side, Bishop Feehan and Concord-Carlisle, a pair of No. 5 seeds, will be worth watching to see if they can shock the top seeds in the sectional semifinals.

Of course, it is star players that draw all the headlines and, especially in the girls’ brackets, there are plenty of big names.

Peabody’s Hayley Dowd, Franklin’s Kristi Kirshe and Canton’s Lauren Berman are the key cogs for potential state championship squads. Needham’s Mac Steeves set a new career scoring record for the Rockets and, of his coach’s opinion, could be an All-American this year.

My (sure to be wrong) predictions are:
  • Franklin and Peabody will make it to face each other in a titanic girls’ Division 1 state semifinal.
  • Ludlow falls short of a third straight state title in another contentious battle with Worcester North.
  • Canton girls knock off Medfield again this year and go on to win the state title.
  • Somewhere along the way a team no one had ranked catches fire and makes a run to the finals (like the Masconomet boys did last year).

Judging by the excitement on Twitter and the nervous energy that everyone had while waiting for the brackets, this could be one of the best tournaments in years.

Buckle up, it's going to be fun.

Recap: No. 6 Needham 1, No. 1 Weymouth 0

October, 16, 2012
10/16/12
11:24
PM ET
(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.

Highlights from Needham's OT boys soccer win

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
11:44
PM ET
Correspondent James Walsh passes along highlights from tonight's thrilling Division 1 South quarterfinal between Needham and Silver Lake.

Needham pulled out the win in overtime, 2-1, with Mac Steves scoring the game-winning goal for the Rockets. They'll face No. 1 seed Greater New Bedford Voke on Friday at 2 p.m. in a semifinal at Medway High.

Player Perspective: Needham's Mac Steeves

November, 4, 2011
11/04/11
2:23
PM ET
No. 4 Needham boys' soccer recently won their first Bay State Conference championship since 2001 and have a team built for a deep tournament run.

The Rockets have senior leaders in captains Jake Bronstein and Quentin Pagnier, who were just freshman the last time Neeedham reached the Division 1 South sectional final back in 2008. One of the reasons the Rockets are one of the favorites in the south is the forward combination of sophomore Harry Swartz and junior Mac Steeves.

We caught up with Steeves to talk about the upcoming tournament, the Bay State Conference, and sibling rivalries for our latest Player Perspective Q-and-A:

Q: You had a pretty successful season in 2010, but this year things seem to be clicking better for your team.
A: “We mesh well together. We got a lot of players that can score goals, we got great guys that can play midfield and defense this year."

Q: Speaking of goals and your club teammate (from Boston Bolts Academy), Harry Swartz has been slamming them in this season, what’s it like playing up top next to him?
A: “It’s great playing with Harry! He’s fast and he gets behind the defense so if you play the ball up he’ll get to it.”

Q: You see a lot of guys that you play with or against at club level right here in the Bay State Conference, how tough is this conference?
A: “Well you have to get up for every game, because the Bay State Conference is probably one of the toughest in Massachusetts. Every game is just as important as the next, so you have get up for it, and play as best as you can and put a lot of effort into it.”

Q: So you’re pretty good, but I hear you might not even be the best soccer player in your house?
A: “Well, my younger sister Kayla has been playing really well for the girls' varsity team (Needham) as a freshman and my older sister (Courtney,) she’s starting and playing a lot for Franklin Pierce in New Hampshire as a freshman. So they’re all right!” (Laughs.)

Q: So if all of you played in the back yard, who would be the best? Or would your father (assistant varsity coach Jay Steeves and NHS varsity player from 1981-1984) beat you all?
A: “I think I’d win, usually. I think I’m a lot faster than they are."

Q: Are they going to be mad when they hear that?
A: “Probably."

Q: With your sister at college, what are you thinking about in terms of the next level?
A: “I have to go through my options, but I’m hoping to go to college, and then hopefully to the next level, but next year is high school.”

Q:You have any colleges in mind? Are any schools reaching out to you?
A: "I’m not really sure yet. I’m still in the process of narrowing down schools."

Q: How far can this Needham team go in the postseason?
A: "I think we can make a really deep run in the playoffs, and I hope for a state championship, but I don’t know. I think we have a lot of potential to go that far in the playoffs."

MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll: Week 8

October, 27, 2011
10/27/11
1:32
PM ET
We have a new number one team in our MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll this week.

The Lincoln-Sudbury Warriors take the top spot after previous number one Ludlow lost for just the second time this season. The Algonquin Tomahawks remain in at No. 2, while Needham and Weymouth flip flop spots after the Rockets defeated the Wildcats, 1-0, last week. The Bay State Conference is now Needham’s to win after dropped another game 1-0 to Brookline.

Here's a breakdown of the week that was and the week to come from resident soccer guru James Walsh:

ON THE BUBBLE
Lowell (11-2-4) - Scored three second half goals to defeat Central Catholic 3-2.
Wellesley (11-5-0) - You don’t want to play this team in the tournament.
Newton South (8-6-3) - The Lions have won six in a row, and only concede two goals over that stretch. Coach John Conte has his team play well at the most important time of the year.
BC High (8-6-3) - An away loss to Xaverian and a well-earned tie with No. 15 Hingham.
Westford Academy (8-5-2) - A tough 3-1 loss to Lincoln-Sudbury and will be without starting keeper Joe Brunelle after he was shown a straight red during the match.
Brighton (13-0-1) - The Benglas are leading the Boston City League.
Chelsea (8-1-0) - Defeated North Shore 6-0 in their only match last week.
Somerville (11-1-4) - Haven’t loss since opening day.

TOP OF THE TABLE
Lincoln-Sudbury’s win over Westford Academy on Wednesday sealed the Dual County League championship for the Warriors. Westford proved a tough test for L-S, but a Chris Kafina goal from an Andres Driscoll headed cross gave the visitors a 2-1 advantage, and Peter Jandl’s goal in the 69th minute sealed the deal.

“That’s one of our goals that goes down first on the sheet every time is win the DCL” Lincoln-Sudbury head coach David Hosford said, “We’ve done that, and did it with a game left, which is hard to do.”

Experience is also a key for the Warriors, who have all the players to make a deep run in the division one north bracket.

“I’ve got 15 seniors on the team, and a lot of them have been in these types of battles before,” Hosford said. “There is a lot of leadership out there and it’s not just from the captains.”

RECAPPING LAST WEEK'S BIG GAMES
(Last week's rankings)
No. 14 Winchester 2, No. 19 Lexington 1
Sophomore Russell Kunes scored to break a 1-1 deadlock and give the Sachems a 2-1 win and the Middlesex title.

No. 7 Needham vs. No. 4 Weymouth
Needham senior Max Swartz got just enough on his shot to force a rebound out of Weymouth keeper Scott Greenwood, and Needham striker Mac Steeves finished the second chance for the games only score.

“[Brandon] Miskin got the ball pretty quick, played a good ball to me, and I was lucky enough to get just enough on it for Mac to come make that play” said Swartz of the game’s lone goal.

He also had some praise for his opponents. “They’re a good team, and they’re always physical, the most physical team we play. We just had to do our best against them”

GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 19 Lexington at Newton North
Pending Thursday’s results, the Tigers may need this game to qualify for the post season. But they went through this last season and things turned out pretty good for Roy Dow’s team.

MIAA boys' soccer Top 20:Week 6

October, 19, 2011
10/19/11
2:44
PM ET
The MIAA boys' soccer Top 20 poll has been updated for this week.

Here's a couple of things to watch out for this week from resident soccer guru James Walsh:

Coming into the top 20 this week are Hingham at No. 17 and North Andover at No. 20. Falling out are Belchertown, who are still one of the better division two sides, and Brockton who have been in and out of the top 20 all season.

Our game of the week from Week 5 ended with a final score of Needham 3, Framingham 2. Mac Steeves scored a hat trick for Needham all from corners l delivered by junior Will Corkery.

“ We made a new play, and it’s worked out really well for us because it isolates two of our biggest guys on our team for free headers usually,” Steeves said, “We connected well and it worked out for us.”

GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 14 Winchester at No. 19 Lexington, Monday, Oct. 24
Winchester won the first meeting this season 2-0 back on September 26.

No. 7 Needham vs. No. 4 Weymouth, Thursday, Oct. 20
One of the states best striker partnerships in Needham’s Harry Swartz and Mac Steeves, go up against one of the states best goalkeepers in Weymouth’s Scott Greenwood.

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