Norwalk boys soccer blows past Westhill in Class LL second round
By Doug Bonjour
NORWALK – For much of this season, Westhill has been delivered challenges of all forms, both on and off the field, and more times than not it’s admirably bounced back.
The first dose of adversity came just five matches into the season, when the Vikings were forced to forfeit their first three wins after using an ineligible player. That left the Vikings behind the eight ball in one of the deepest conferences in the state and forced them to orchestrate a rapid turnaround in hopes of salvaging what had already become a whirlwind of a season.
Their answer was putting together one of the most remarkable stretches of 2011–a 9-0-2 run that earned them berths in both the FCIAC playoffs and the Class LL state tournament.
After all they had accomplished, the Vikings were tossed another stiff test on Monday–a two-goal deficit at halftime against one of the premier teams in the state–and for once, they didn’t have an answer.
After senior Nic Zuniga and junior Kevin Joslyn struck for first-half goals to put third-seeded Norwalk ahead early in the Class LL state tournament second round game on Monday, the frontline duo made their mark again over the final 40 minutes, lifting Bears to a 4-1 victory, ending Westhill’s season.
“I didn’t expect anything less from them,” Westhill head coach Joe Andrews said of Norwalk, which earned a berth in Wednesday’s quarterfinal round against No. 6 Farmington, the defending champion. “They out-played us. Being down 2-0 early didn’t help but they were on their game. We knew that coming in.”
The Bears, now winners of two straight, controlled all facets of the match, out-shooting the 19th-seeded Vikings 18-7 while piling up a number of other scoring chances.
Just less than 18 minutes in, Norwalk built a lead it wouldn’t relinquish when forward Mike Broncati pushed the ball upfield, and relayed a cross from the edge of the box onto the foot of Zuniga, who blasted a shot inside the far post. The early deficit was a dangerous scenario for the Vikings, especially against a Norwalk team that was in the process of putting together one of its most complete performances of the year.
“This was one of our best games. Possession-wise, our offense was on point and our defense was solid,” said Zuniga, who knocked home the Bears’ third goal with 23:37 remaining in the second half, after collecting a loose ball at the top of the box. “There’s always room for improvement and we’re just looking to get better.”
The Bears (15-2-2) built a two-goal lead just eight minutes later in controversial fashion, as Joslyn, stride for stride with a defender, fielded a punt that sailed 50-plus yards off the foot of goalkeeper Svet Kozak. Despite pleas for offsides, no call was made and Joslyn moved in alone on Westhill goalkeeper Eli Kisselbach, burying a shot home.
The two-goal deficit proved to be too much for the Vikings to overcome.
“It was tough. That was a tough one to swallow,” Andrews said. “That was a tough one to come back from and they never recovered from that. I can honestly say I didn’t recover from that.”
Joslyn, who anchored the Bears’ lethal frontline, capped the scoring with 21:25 left by blasting a shot following a save by Kisselbach. It was more than enough to lift a Norwalk team that has seen its postseason runs end far too early in recent years.
“I thought we created a lot of opportunities going forward and I’m just happy to get the win and move on,” head coach Chris Laughton said.
Forward Mateo Gallego produced the lone goal for Westhill (10-7-2) with 19:31 left by booting a penalty kick past Kozak.
CLASS LL STATE TOURNAMENT SECOND ROUND
NO. 3 NORWALK 4, NO. 19 WESTHILL 1
WESTHILL 0 1–1
NORWALK 2 2–4
Records: Westhill 10-7-2; Norwalk 15-2-2.
Goals: W–Mateo Gallego; N–Nic Zuniga 2; Kevin Joslyn 2. Assists: N–Mike Broncati, Svet Kozak. Goalies: W–Eli Kisselbach (10 saves), Gustavo Ramirez (1). N–Kozak (3). Shots: W–7; N–18.
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