Bears close in on FCIAC’s top seed
By BOB BIRGE
NORWALK — The Norwalk boys’ soccer team on Monday moved one step closer to clinching the top seed in the FCIAC playoffs for the third straight year. Michal Nowicki, Kevin Joslyn and Nacho Navarro scored as the Bears overcome a slow start to defeat Fairfield Warde, 3-1, at Testa Field to hold on to the top spot.
Norwalk, which improved to 13-1-1, has 40 points and needs at least a tie in its regular-season finale at New Canaan at 7 p.m. Wednesday to lock up the top seed.
The Bears have assured themselves of at least a home game in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Wilton’s loss to Greenwich Monday moved Ridgefield into the No. 2 spot behind Norwalk. The Bears defeated Ridgefield earlier in the season.
“It’s always a goal,” Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said. “We always want to be the No. 1 team in the league. The main thing is we want to keep playing good soccer and get better every single day. If we do that, I think we can look up the top seed.”
Despite the two-goal win, however, the Bears were not happy with how they played, pointing to mistakes they feel could hinder them if they continue against tougher opponents in the FCIAC playoffs and Class LL state tournament.
“We have very high expectations for ourselves,” Joslyn said. “We didn’t play our best soccer. They played us tough, they were very disciplined. They frustrated us and it made it difficult for us to play the game we wanted to play. As always, it’s good to get the win.”
Warde dropped to 6-7-2 and was eliminated from the FCIAC playoffs.
The Bears couldn’t get much going early as the Mustangs collapsed in front of goaltender Steven Bartlett, limiting Norwalk’s scoring chances.
Warde surprised Norwalk, which was celebrating its Senior Night, with the game’s opening goal.
With 28:15 left in the first half, Michael Foley headed home Sofiene Afif’s cross. Foley’s shot just alluded the leaping attempt of Norwalk goalkeeper Svet Kozak.
Norwalk finished with a 21-16 edge in shots with Kozak recording 11 saves, including four in the second half, to keep the Bears ahead. “I didn’t think we played one of our better games,” Laughton said. “It’s part of the season and I know the boys will rebound the right way. We’ll get better for Wednesday and get better for FCIACs.”
Norwalk finally got its offense untracked and tied the game with 18:45 left in the first half when Nowicki headed Santiago Muriel’s corner kick inside the left post. With 12 1/2 minutes left in the half, Warde nearly took the lead as Charles Aragon’s shot hit the post.
Three minutes later, Matt Capomolla took a feed from Muriel and appeared ready to put the Bears ahead as his shot was headed for the net but a Warde defender deflected it wide just before the ball crossed the goal line. With 8: 41 remaining before the intermission, Josyln pounced on a loose ball in front that was mishandled by Bartlett (eight saves) and slammed it in for a 2-1 lead. With five minutes to go in the half, Carlos Teysseire missed a chance to make it 3-1 on a bizarre sequence as his shot from close range hit the left post, caromed off Barlett and hit the post again before deflecting wide.
After Warde missed some chances to tie in the second half, Navarro gave the Bears an insurance goal with only 3:23 left in the contest.
In each of the last two years, New Canaan stunned the top-seeded Bears in the quarterfinals of the FCIAC playoffs, making Wednesday’s contest a grudge match, according to Joslyn.
“They ruined our dream the last couple of years, so that’s definitely a lot to think about going into Wednesday night,” he said.
© The Hour Newspaper