By JOHN NASH
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — The Norwalk High boys soccer team is made up of a group of players from a host of different backgrounds, a group who gets along great with each other and has quite a bit of varsity experience.
The last time head coach Chris Laughton concocted such a recipe out on Testa Field, the Bears won the 2012 Class LL state championship.
Nobody is ready to anoint Norwalk with another crown before game one is even played, but this much is certain days before the season opens up: The Bears are expected to be right in the mix.
“I’m excited,” said Laughton, who is in his ninth year as the Bears boss. “We have a big core group of guys back and some experience. It’s still early in the year and time will tell, but yeah, I’m excited.”
Nine seniors did graduate from the program, four of which were starters, but Norwalk was especially deep a year ago as it posted a 12-3-5 record, falling in the FCIAC semifinals and in the second round of the CIAC Class LL playoffs, losing to Simsbury in penalty kicks
The Bears have not forgotten that loss.
“Oh yeah, that’s something we talked about in the room throughout the entire offseason,” said Laughton. “We posted the write-up on that game on the wall. The guys haven’t forgotten about it.”
The 13 senior members of this year’s Norwalk team haven’t forgotten the stunned looks and tear-filled eyes of seniors who walked off the field after their final game wearing the NHS uniform either, Laughton said.
“That’s been the driving force (for the seniors),” said Laughton. “You guys have the ability to control the end of your careers.”
Senior tri-captains Tyler Dalton, Loizos Karaiskos and George Kutrubis are three-year starters for Norwalk at goalkeeper, center back, and center mid, respectively.
Other seniors who will see plenty of playing time this season are Brayden Schmitt, Leonidas Taiyanides, Victor Vega and Luis Mandujano on defense; Alex Escalante in the midfield, and Michael Mercuri, Santiago Mesa and Alex Torres in the forward position.
Juniors Steven Restrepo (defender), Jose Carvajal (midfield), and Anthony Hernandez (forward) will also see plenty of action while sophomores Sebastian Echeverri and Cristian Moncada will help hold things down in the midfield and up top, respectively.
Defense, Laughton said, will be a strength.
“They take it personally when somebody scores on them,” he said. “We’re looking for shutouts.”
In the scoring department, though, Laughton said those listed are all guys “battling for spots.”
In the end, though, Norwalk is taking things day by day and just looking to get better with every game and every practice.
“We’ve been talking about short-term goals that lead to long-term goals,” said Laughton. “We’ve been focusing on taking care of day to day things — have we gotten better today? Have we gotten better as a team?”
It was a plan that paid off in big fashion in 2013.
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- Dino Melitsanopoulos Memorial Complete at NHS
- Largest Turnout in Alumni Game History!
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- 2015 Captains Named at Annual Banquet
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- Bears' state title was years in the making
- THE BEARS ARE STATE CHAMPIONS!
- The spirit of '66
- Bears heading to Division I schools
- Joslyn knows the score
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