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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Whether it is on the gridiron, the ice, or the pitch, any time the Needham Rockets and Wellesley Raiders get together, you know that it is going to be an intense match.
Last Wednesday, Needham and Wellesley kicked off the 2016 boys soccer season in at Sprague Field in Wellesley in what turned out to be a classic between the two arch-rivals.
Despite a late surge by the Raiders, the Rockets were able to hold on and escape with the 2-1 victory.
Both teams played lockdown defense in the first half, as Needham’s Andrew McNally (five saves) and Wellesley’s Anders Pineau (nine saves) kept the game scoreless at the break.
The Rockets came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, and their hard work paid off with two quick goals, including one by freshman Steve Donovan in the 63rd minute.
“That was actually Steve’s first varsity touch,” said Rockets head coach Jimmy Odierna. “We had a lot of guys go down with cramps tonight, so Donovan and the rest of our bench did a great job of filling in and picking up the slack, and they were rewarded for their hard work with that goal. It ended up being the difference in the game.”
Despite being down two goals late, the Raiders were not done fighting, as Christopher Cole took a pass in the box from Will Clarkhill and fired home a strike to cut the deficit to one with just under eight minutes remaining.
The Raiders continued to pepper the Needham end of the field in the final eight minutes, even bringing goaltender Anders Pineau down to the opposing end on a late corner-kick in an effort to tie the game. The Raiders were unsuccessful on the late corner-kick attempt and the final whistle blew, with the Rockets holding on for the 2-1 victory.
“It just wasn’t our night,” said Raiders head coach Tim Mason. “Their goalkeeper made some big saves towards the end there and we missed on a couple of really good chances. I lost count of how many cross bars we hit in that second half.”
“We’re a young team and our guys fought their tails off today, and despite the outcome I’m still very pleased with the efforts these young men gave.”
Mason also praised the efforts of his sophomore goalkeeper in Wednesday’s loss.
“Anders really stepped up today,” said Mason. “There were several times where we inexplicably turned over the ball on our side of the field and he bailed us out with some big saves. He’s young and I’m really excited to see how his game grows this season and in years to come.”