Norwalk tops Stamford to advance to Class LL championship game
By JOHN NASH
Hour Staff Writer
NEW CANAAN — Kevin Joslyn has already had a great regular season.
The Norwalk High School senior striker has learned through two years of heartbreak, however, that what you do in the regular season is rarely remembered when you fail to capitalize on your postseason opportunities.
Joslyn has scored six of his 21 goals this season in the state tournament, including two more against Stamford on Friday, as the top-seeded Bears advanced to the Class LL championship game by a 2-1 margin over the 12th-seeded Black Knights at Dunning Field.
The win puts Norwalk into the next week’s final against third-seeded Fairfield Prep, which topped Greenwich in penalty kicks in Friday’s other semifinal. The game will be played next Friday or Saturday at a site still to be determined.
“We’ve had some grinding wins the last couple of games,” said Joslyn, who has scored Norwalk’s last four goals. “This was just another one and I expect more of the same in the final. It’s just another day at the office.”
Well, not quite.
While the Bears did beat the Black Knights during the FCIAC regular season, 4-2 back in September, they took to the field this time around without senior center mid Nacho Navarro, who injured a hamstring during the team’s quarterfinal win over Newtown.
Navarro hoped to get on the field, but couldn’t get clearance from the Bears’ trainer, thus stayed on the sidelines.
“Nacho is like our quarterback,” said Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton. “He gets us going. Not having him tonight was tough, but I thought a lot of other guys stepped up. We got contributions from everybody who played.”
A Nacho-less offense, however, did look a bit disjointed early in the game as the Bears tried to adjust.
Neither team mounted any major scoring opportunities for the first 29 minutes of play, until Norwalk finally timed up Stamford’s offside trap.
The Black Knights defense had cleared the ball and started to push up in an effort to catch the Bears offside, which worked more than a handful of times.
This time, however, Norwalk’s Jose Canahui was able to force the ball back toward the Stamford defense, getting the ball to Joslyn, who was able to beat his man and gain control of the ball.
As Stamford’s goalkeeper Ron Andre came out to play the ball, Joslyn looped a ball over his head and into the net for a 1-0 Norwalk lead with 10:46 to go in the first half.
“That’s kind of my trademark,” Joslyn said. “I find it easier. Instead of going side-to-side, just go over the top.”
Stamford got the equalizer seven and a half minutes later as Anderson Moise dumped a short pass to Steven Lopez, who ripped off a solid shot past Norwalk keeper Svet Kozak to tie the game.
“We’re not afraid of them,” said Stamford head coach Mario Caminiti. “We respect them, but we’re not afraid of them. We played hard. This team has grown a lot and they showed it today.”
In the second half, though, Norwalk got used to playing without Navarro and started controlling play and possession.
With Santiago Muriel and Michal Nowicki taking over the midfield and controlling play, Stamford’s scoring chances became even more limited — especially against the Bears defense led by of Andrew Melitsanopoulos, Paul Soja, Chris Miklave and Michael Bonebreak.
Adding to Stamford’s offensive woes was the loss of Lucas Lauria, who likely suffered a fractured wrist in the second half.
Midway through that second half, the Bears got another perfectly timed through ball to Joslyn.
This time, the speedy senior had to out-race Andre to the ball as Joslyn slid into his shot and pushed it past the Black Knights goalkeeper for a 2-1 edge.
“Kevin’s had a great postseason,” said Laughton. “He’s had some big goals for us.”
Against Fairfield Prep, Norwalk will be looking to win its first state soccer championship since 1966, when it beat Wethersfield by a 1-0 score.
The Bears lost to Newtown, 3-1, in the title game in 2004, and also to Manchester in 1956.
“A lot of people thought we couldn’t do it, but they’re proving everybody wrong,” said Laughton. “These guys are hungry. We’ve got 13 seniors and there is no way they were going to let this season end.”
Stamford finished the season 13-5-2 and while Caminiti was pleased with the Black Knights campaign, he was disappointed with Friday’s result.
“They deserved better, especially in this game,” the veteran head coach said. “I thought we were short-changed on some calls. But that’s not the only thing the boys are disappointed with. In the semifinals, you need to have a little more experience to manage a game and officiate. In the long run, some of the calls really did not equal out to the end.”
© The Hour Newspaper
Norwalk beats Stamford, advancing to the Class LL boys soccer final
By Dave Ruden
NEW CANAAN — The seniors on the Norwalk High School boys soccer team feel they are not being arrogant in their belief that they have had the premier program in the state during their tenure.
But outside of sharing the FCIAC title two weeks ago, the Bears are cognizant they have little supportive evidence to their claim.
“A lot of these guys have been with the program for three or four years and they didn’t want another season to end up short of their goal,” Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said.
Despite missing one of their star players, and against a familiar but surging opponent looking to continue a storybook run, the Bears took advantage of two goals by Kevin Joslyn to gut out a 2-1 win over Stamford Friday night in the CIAC Class LL semifinals at Dunning Field.
The top-seeded Bears (20-1-1) reached the final for the first time since 2004 and will meet Fairfield Prep for the chance to win just the program’s second state crown in the sport. The first took place in 1966.
“For me as a coach, I didn’t feel the pressure,” Laughton said. “A lot of people doubted them, doubted us, in the postseason.”
Joslyn helped silence the skeptics with a pair of similar goals started on plays attacking over the top of the Black Knights’ defense.
“We’ve had a lot of grinding wins the last couple of games and that’s what this has come down to,” said Joslyn. “Just another day at the office.”
Since opening the tournament with a 5-1 victory over Hamden, the Bears have won three successive one-goal games, answering the perception they grow frustrated when not dominating.
“The past three years, on paper, we win every game,” Joslyn said. “This team has the skill and also the hard work to go with it.”
Norwalk, stuck in neutral early, needed that persistence against a Stamford team that came into the state playoffs seeded 12th, and then ran off three straight wins to reach the semifinal round for the first time in coach Mario Caminiti’s 30-plus years with the program.
Though Caminiti said in their own way the Black Knights also felt they had something to prove, their play in the semifinals only enhanced the added respect earned this postseason.
“We’re not afraid of them,” Caminiti said of the Bears. “We respect them, but we’re not afraid of them. We felt we needed to beat Norwalk to finally change some people’s minds.”
After some tentative early play by both sides, the Bears took a lead in the 30th minute. Jose Canahui chipped a ball over the Black Knights’ back line, onto the feet of Joslyn. As Stamford goalkeeper Ron Andre came off his line, Joslyn struck a a high arcing shot that bounced into the back of the net.
Stamford equalized in the 37th minute, when Anderson Moise’s shot was blocked by the Norwalk defense and the ball came out to Steven Lopez, who finished into the corner of the goal.
“We knew people didn’t believe in us, even with the run we had in the tournament,” Caminiti said.
The Bears seemed to have trouble adjusting to the absence of Nacho Navarro, their creative catalyst, who sustained a pulled hamstring in the team’s quarterfinal win over Newtown.
“We really had one day to train without having him,” Laughton said. “These guys are good enough and smart enough that the next player fills the void. We get contributions from so many different players, not just the starting 11.”
Joslyn provided the game-winner and his team-leading 21st goal in the 59th minute, this time off a set from Alejandro Rivera.
“This season we’ve had that mental toughness,” Joslyn said.
NOTES: Stamford star Lucas Laria left the game in the second half with what was initially diagnosed as a broken or dislocated wrist. …The state final will be held next Friday or Saturday, at a site and time to be determined. Norwalk administrators expressed the hope that given the proximity of the two finalists, the game will be played in the area.
NORWALK 2, STAMFORD 1
STAMFORD 1 0–1
NORWALK 1 1–2
Goals: S–Steven Lopez; N–Kevin Joslyn 2. Assists: S–Anderson Moise; N–Jose Canahui, Alejandro Rivera. Goalies: S–Ron Andre (4 saves); N–Svet Kozak (2 saves). Shots: S–8; N–8.
© Norwalk Citizen