LYNN — The Needham boys’ soccer team rebounded from an early own-goal and benefitted from a late first-half penalty kick by Mac Steeves, dealing Somerville its only loss on the season, in the Division 1 EMass final, Wednesday night at Manning Field.
“It’s amazing,” said Steeves. “Collectively, our team played great. We put together a great game and knocked off a very, very good team.”
A flurry of activity dotted the early goings of the first half and just seven minutes into the game the Rockets (19-1-3) launched the first threat as Matthew Brand crossed a pass in the box to Donald Silverman, whose shot was stopped by Somerville goalkeeper Luis Guerra (three saves) diving to his left.
In the 13th minute Somerville’s Francisco Neto dribbled alone up the left wing and popped a shot from just outside the box that was initially deflected toward the front of the net and then redirected in by Needham defender Jack Nardi, giving the Highlanders the early 1-0 lead.
Somerville (20-1-2) continued to press on offense, but Rockets keeper Kevin MacMillan (four saves) came up with some big stops, two off of headers by Felix De Bona.
As Needham pushed play toward the center of the field, it began to gain confidence in its attack.
That led to a break by Brandon Miskin, who drew two defenders that allowed him to find Steeves, who finished with a powerful shot to the left post to tie the game.
With under two minutes to play in the first half, Steeves received a pass up the middle and battled for possession with Highlanders defender Andre Rolim, who was called for a take-down in the box.
Steeves lined up a penalty kick from 12 yards out, burying it to Guerra’s right for a 2-1 lead.
“It’s disheartening when you play that long and that hard,” said Somerville coach George Scarpelli.
“You’re talking about two kids who are working hard to the ball all night long. It was a battle for position.”
The Rockets clamped down on Somerville’s forward tandem of De Bona and Thayrone Miranda in the second half, strategically easing the 6-foot-4-inch Steeves into a defensive-midfield position, where he continuously cleared the ball out of harm’s way.
“They dropped off, put six guys in the back and it worked,” said Scarpelli. “They collapsed on Felix and Thayrone and they started pressing instead of checking the ball back into the gaps.”
“We’ve been doing that for several years with Mac,” said Needham coach Don Brock. “He can play anywhere on the field.”
Brock, who will be coaching in his sixth title game, added, “Needham has a great soccer tradition and we’re proud of it.”
The Rockets will face Amherst in the Division 1 state championship game on Friday at Foley Stadium in Worcester.