Class LL State Boys Soccer: Norwalk blasts Hamden
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — The Norwalk High boys soccer team may have learned a lesson from its state tournament opener.
The Bears, coming off an FCIAC co-championship earlier in the week, got off to a sluggish start despite dominating play but they turned it on when they needed to en route to a 5-1 victory over Hamden in the first round of the Class LL state tournament on Friday afternoon at Testa Field.
“That’s never acceptable – the way we played in the first half,” Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said. “The boys realize that and turned it around in the second half, which was good.”
When the top-seeded Bears (17-1-1) got into a rhythm, it was close to impossible for the 32nd-seeded Green Dragons (6-8-4) to contend with them as Norwalk advanced to the second round to play host to FCIAC rival and No. 17 seed Staples at 4 p.m. Saturday at Testa.
The Wreckers defeated Norwich Free Academy, 6-0, in their tourney opener.
Kevin Joslyn scored two goals and tacked on an assist to lead the Bears past Hamden while Santiago Muriel chipped in with a goal and two assists. Michal Nowicki also found the back of the net and Alejandro Rivera added an assist. Hector Zepeda netted Hamden’s lone goal and Norwalk’s fifth tally resulted from an own-goal off a corner kick.
Playing with the wind at their backs in the first half, the Bears kept the ball in Hamden’s end of the field a majority of the time, without positive returns through 33-plus minutes. They had chances but couldn’t cash in.
“We might’ve gotten a little complacent because of the FCIAC win,” Joslyn said of the team’s slow start. “It’s hard to stop at a championship and just keep going from that and try to get another championship. That’s our goal from now on and maybe we felt a little pressure from that. We came out slow but figured it out.”
Laughton said the lack of playing time due to the weather probably factored into the equation as well.
“It’s a matter of not being as sharp as usual,” he said. “I’m not worried about it. We should be fine.”
The Bears were fine after breaking through with their first goal in the 33rd minute to grab a 1-0 lead.
Muriel played a short corner to Nowicki from the left side of the field. Muriel then crossed the ball into the box to Joslyn at the far post and he headed the ball into the top right corner of the net past keeper Matt Wilson, who finished with six saves.
Norwalk increased its lead to 2-0 with just 1:51 remaining before halftime.
Joslyn won the ball in the midfield and passed the ball to Muriel, who made a run down the left side of the field. Muriel ended up one-on-one with Wilson and he blasted a shot toward the far post with the ball sailing into the bottom right corner.
“We saw how we were slacking a bit in the beginning but we got into it and pulled it off,” Muriel said. “We got our goals and came out with the win. That’s all that matters.”
The Bears showed how explosive they can be on offense, netting three goals during a 10-plus minute stretch in the second half to take a commanding 5-0 lead.
Rivera chipped the ball over the top to Joslyn, who was there for the finish into the bottom right corner 2:58 into the second. Then Nowicki took a pass from Muriel, made a move and beat Wilson with a shot that found its way into the bottom left corner for the goal 10:22 in. Muriel took a corner kick from the left side and the ball was headed by a Green Dragon defender into the net 11:56 in.
Zepeda’s free kick hit off the wall and he gathered up the rebound and booted the ball past Norwalk keeper Svet Kozak into the top left corner at 62:22.
Kozak and backup keeper Tyler Dalton made a save apiece and the Norwalk defense of Andrew Melitsanopoulos, Paul Soja, Jose Canahui, Michael Bonebrake and Nico Samperez, who has played in the back the last seven games, never let the ball get past them for the most part.
“Defensively we did a really good job of containing them and not giving up any chances,” Laughton said. “That’s a credit to our back line.”
The games will continue to get tougher for the Bears and they’ll have to deal with and get by a familiar foe up next in the Wreckers. Norwalk beat Staples 2-0 in the regular season.
“I’m always excited to play Staples,” Laughton said. “I have so much respect for that program. They’re the best program in state history and we have an opportunity to play and possibly beat the best. That’s all you can ask for as a coach and I know the kids are excited about that, too.”
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