D1 boys soccer: Needham 1, Amherst 0

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."