Norwalk wins on penalty kicks
By MIKE CARDILLO
DANBURY — After 100 hard-fought and practically even minutes of soccer, the Class LL boys semifinal between No. 9 Norwalk and No. 5 Farmington needed penalty kicks to end the deadlock.
And less than a week after topping FCIAC champion Central in the tournament’s second round on kicks, Norwalk ousted Northwest Conference co-champion Farmington 4-2 in penalty kicks.
As soon as Joey Perugini’s shot sailed wide of the net, Norwalk keeper Mike Surace leapt in the air to celebrate. Surace had stopped Ian Lindquist’s shot for the difference.
“I was pretty confident,” Surace said. “My three coaches all gave me a piece of advice and I guess I just got lucky tonight.”
In the Class LL playoffs, the Bears have converted 12 of their 13 penalty kicks.
“We don’t coach penalty kicks, each kid goes up there and does their own thing,” Norwalk coach Kurt Simonsen said.
Norwalk earned the right to play No. 3 Newtown in the final on Friday at a site and time to be determined.
Norwalk’s Dan Freshman nearly broke the deadlock seven minutes into the overtime on a header off a throw-in.
Farmington (17-3) could have ended it with 30 seconds remaining in the second overtime on a service ball from Matt Riccardi. The ball bounced off a defender and was loose for a second before getting cleared.
“Penalty kicks are a lot of luck and I really felt like we lost tonight on a bounce of a ball,” Farmington coach Steve Waters said.
The best chance for the Bears in regulation came midway through the first half. Sophomore Mike Fraioli wove through the right side of the penalty area and placed a low cross to Tom Mattera, who was square to the net. His shot, however, skied over the crossbar.
Fraioli also had a chance four minutes into the second half, when he received a cross in front of the goal. But defender Nick Zarka prevented an attempt on goal.
Normally a stronger side in the second half, the scoreless first half saw Norwalk own an advantage in possession. Wednesday it was Farmington that dictated play in the second half.
Farmington nearly broke the deadlock in the 57th minute. Tyler DeBari ran down a missed clearance and would have had a clear shot at Surace’s net if not for a last second poke-away by Joe Funicello.
A minute later, the Indians had another great chance. John Zaback ran up the right flank and ripped a shot that curled just over the goal.
With 90 seconds remaining, Norwalk’s Steve Cenatiempo nearly averted overtime. He faked out a defender inside the left side of the box, but his low shot was right at Farmington keeper Matt Sangeloty.
NORWALK0 0 0 0
FARMINGTON0 0 0 0
Records: Norwalk 18-2-2; Farmington 17-3
Michael Surace (4 saves); F
Matt Sangeloty (11); Shots: N 11; F 6.
Bears, Barely: Norwalk survives penalty kicks to advance to Class LL boys soccer final
By Dave Ruden
DANBURY — Norwalk High School goalkeeper Michael Surace said he receives three different pieces of instruction from his team’s three coaches on how to prepare for penalty kicks.
But when it is time to step on the line, Surace said instincts are most instructive.
“It basically comes down to whether you guess the right way,” he said.
After playing to a scoreless tie in last night’s CIAC Class LL semifinal at Danbury High School, Surace positioned himself correctly to stop Farmington’s Ian Lindquist on the third attempt to give the Bears the advantage.
With his team leading, 4-2, Surace’s deductive skills proved superfluous when the Indians’ Joey Perugini put his shot wide of the right post, earning Norwalk its third trip to the state final and first since 1966, when it won its only title.
“We work very hard on penalty kicks in practice,” Norwalk coach Kurt Simonsen said. “We try to mimic the situation. (Surace) is our most improved player.”
This was the second time in three outings the Bears won a shootout to advance in the tournament. They defeated Bridgeport Central, 9-8, in the second round, and have now made 13 of 14 attempts.
“You are supposed to make a majority of your kicks,” Surace said. “From my standpoint, you have nothing to lose.”
Norwalk (18-2-2), the ninth seed, will meet No. 3 Newtown in the final here tomorrow at 7 p.m. The Nighthawks defeated Staples, 7-1, in last night’s first game.
The Bears’ only losses have been to Central, during the regular season and in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference final.
They have grown accustomed to playing tight contests, and yesterday was no different.
Norwalk did a good job making runs in the first half against Farmington (17-3), the fifth seed, which was playing in the LL field for the first time. But after failing to finish, it was on the defensive for a good part of the second half as the Indians increased their work rate and were more effective winning 50-50 balls.
“We knocked on the door several times and probably had four to five chances to score,” Simonsen said. “The kids were frustrated, but absorbed pressure well.”
The best opportunities came in a first half controlled by the Bears.
Tom Mattera, perhaps their best player in the postseason, delivered a ball to Michael Fraioli on the left side in the ninth minute. Fraioli maintained possession after a tackle attempt but his hard shot on the ground was straight at Farmington goalkeeper Matt Sangeloty.
The two players reversed roles moments later when Fraioli sent in Mattera, whose shot sailed just over the crossbar.
The Bears received a lift with the return of Jon Colangelo, who had missed the previous four games with a wrist injury. He entered in the 10th minute and provided a boost in the middle of the field.
Fraioli came close again in the 29th minute, getting loose in the defense and taking a shot while falling down that went just wide of the far post.
But the Indians made it to halftime tied. And with some good play by John Zaback at midfield and Tyler DeBari up front, tested the Norwalk defense for the next 40 minutes.
“Our intensity level picked up in the second half,” Farmington coach Steve Waters said. “You don’t want it to come down to penalty kicks.”
The Indians’ Eddie Dunne made a big play in the 44th minute to preserve the tie. The Bears moved the ball quickly, with David Dellinger feeding Steve Cenatiempo, who found Fraioli in the middle of the box.
Fraioli appeared to have an alley, but Dunne stepped in front to block the shot.
Cenatiempo was effective creating late in regulation, while DeBari made runs in the Norwalk zone. DeBari had the ball taken off his foot by Joe Funicello on one play and put another attempt right at Surace.
In overtime, Funicello drew a yellow card for throwing DeBari to the ground during a stoppage. Simonsen was angry; he had planned to push forward in the final minutes, bringing Funicello up.
“When that happened it changed the dynamic,” Simonsen said.
Farmington almost exploited Funicello’s absence in the final minute of overtime but could not produce off a scramble in front of the Norwalk goal.
Funicello’s infraction made him unavailable to be one of the Bears’ five shooters in the first round of penalty kicks.
It did not matter.
Anthony Fraioli, Colangelo, Cenatiempo and Michael Fraioli took turns scoring into the right side against Sangeloty. DeBari and Zaback converted on the Indians’ first two shots, but after Lindquist was stopped, Perugini pushed his shot wide, igniting a huge celebration from a group of players who, coming off a 7-8-1 season in which they admittedly underachieved, keep finding ways to win.
“They have matured a lot,” Simonsen said. “It has been nice because they have energized the school and the community.”
Surace said this postseason is converting him into a fan of a method of settling ties that most find dissatisfying.
“I like them when we win,” Surace said. “Right now I’m just excited about playing in the final. I can’t wait.”
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