Bears top Danbury
By BOB BIRGE
NORWALK — The Norwalk boys’ soccer team will get a chance to avenge its only loss of the season.
Nacho Navarro converted a penalty kick with 13: 10 left in the first half and Kevin Joslyn scored with 10:38 left in the second half as the top-seed Bears defeated No. 8 Danbury 2-0 Friday night in the FCIAC quarterfinals at Testa Field. Norwalk (15-1-1) will take on No. 4 seed Wilton in the semifinals on Monday at 7 p. m. at Fairfield Ludlowe’s Taft Field. The Warriors, who defeated Norwalk 4-1 on Sept. 20, advanced with a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 5 Stamford on Friday.
On paper, Stamford would have represented an easier opponent for Norwalk, but that’s not what the Bears are thinking about.
‘We’re happy,’ Joslyn said. ‘We actually wanted Wilton to beat Stamford so we could see them again. We didn’t want to leave the season without beating overbody.’
Norwalk, which earned the FCIAC’s top seed for the third straight year, cleared a major hurdle Friday as the Bears were upset by No. 8 New Canaan in the quarterfinals in each of the last two seasons. The Rams grabbed the No. 7 seed after losing to Norwalk 4-0 in their regular-season finale on Wednesday.
‘After losing in the first round twice, the monkey is off our backs,’ Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said. ‘I think we can just concentrate on playing. It’s a different group, a different team, and I think they showed that.’
‘It’s like we just had to get past this game,’ Joslyn added. In an evenly played and fast-paced first half, Navarro was tripped in the box by Jonathan Pena, resulting in the penalty kick. Navarro got Danbury goaltender freshman goaltender Ian Dalton to commit to the right and drilled a low shot inside the left post to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. The contest featured plenty of early action as Norwalk had an excellent chance in the first minute when Matt Capomolla fed an open Michal Nowicki in front. Nowicki’s shot, however, went wide.
With 37:43 left, Danbury’s Edison Matute got free after a long run but shot wide. Just under a minute later, a header by the Hatters’ Kenny Wilson carried inches over the crossbar. At the 15:02 mark, Norwalk’s Santiago Muriel almost got the Bears on the board, but his blast from closs range clanged off the left post. Two minutes after Navarro’s goal, Joslyn seemed poised to make it 2-0. After faking Shannon, he had an open net, only to shoot wide.
‘We didn’t capitalize on some of the opportunities we had,’ Laughton said. ‘We had some solid chances. We just didn’t put them away. It was just a hard- fought FCIAC tournament game.’
Joslyn missed three more chances in the second half but finally was rewarded for his efforts when he headed home Muriel’s corner kick to give the Bears some breathing room. Svet Kozak made seven saves for Norwalk, which finished with a 13-7 edge in shots. Shannon made seven saves for Danbury.
Laughton talked about how this has been like a season of redemption for the Bears. First, they beat Trumbull, which handed Norwalk two losses a year ago. That was followed by Wednesday’s win over New Canaan.
Now comes the next challenge. A berth in the FCIAC finals will be on the line.
‘If you want to say you’re the best, you have to beat the best,’ Laughton told his team. ‘(Wilton) beat you.’
© The Hour Newspaper