By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — There was a game last season which spurred Michal Nowicki to bigger and better things for the Norwalk High boys soccer team.
Nowicki, a senior center midfielder whose first name is pronounced ‘Me-HOW,’ was getting knocked off the ball against Fairfield Warde. Nowicki weighed only 120 pounds as a junior reserve and he was being manhandled by the opposition, especially the Mustangs.
Head coach Chris Laughton explained to Nowicki that if he wanted to play a bigger role for the Bears as a senior, he needed to get stronger. Nowicki took what his coach said to heart and went about making the necessary changes in order to hang tough with the formidable opponents he’d face in the FCIAC.
“He told me if I worked out and put in the work, I’d start,” Nowicki recalled on Wednesday. “I decided to put in as much time as I could to get that done.”
Nowicki hit the weight room hard, working out four to five days a week, and improved on his fitness by running and stretching. He even started eating right.
Now Nowicki, who put on close to 30 pounds in the offseason and stands in at 5-foot-10, is completing his first full season as a starter and has been a vital cog for top-ranked Norwalk, which plays for the Class LL state championship on Friday against No. 3 Fairfield Prep at New Canaan High.
“Some kids say they’re going to put in the work and never follow through but Michal was good to his word,” said Laughton, who always admired Nowicki’s soccer skills and said he’s very respectful. “Right after last season ended he was in the weight room every day.”
That hard work has translated into results for Nowicki, who may only have five goals and four assists this season but has been a presence in the middle of the field for the Bears.
Laughton said Nowicki is one of the smartest players he’s ever coached and he’s been able to get the job done on both sides of the ball.
“He has an understanding of the game and recognizes runs that a lot of other players don’t see,” he said. “He’s had a tremendous year for us and a major reason for our success is because of the player he’s developed into.”
Adding bulk to his already solid soccer acumen has boosted Nowicki’s confidence and made him that much harder for his opponents to handle.
As far as he’s concerned, what he does isn’t a complicated formula. He moves the ball up field to his attackers and supports the defense when necessary.
“I stay in the center and try to win as many balls as I can,” he said. “I keep it simple. I do what I can to help us win.”
He did what he had to do to help his team win in the FCIAC co-championship game, a game in which Laughton said Nowicki played his best, as he helped the Bears win their first conference crown since 2002 with a 5-1 victory over Wilton.
Nowicki has certainly come a long way since he came into the program, when he was 5-foot-3 and 100 pounds soaking wet as a freshman. He’s proof that hard work pays off.
“He’s been a great role model to his peers and the young guys on the team,” Laughton said. “Everyone admires him and all the work he’s done and his dedication to the program. Everyone wants him to do well.”
They’ll most certainly want him to do well on Friday, when Nowicki and the Bears have a shot to bring home Norwalk’s first state championship since 1966.
“We’ve been working for this for a long time,” Nowicki said. “Now we have one game to make the hard work pay off.”
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