Top-ranked Bears roar
Andres Torres scored twice as the No. 1 team in the state coaches poll improved to 5-0 by blanking Wilton.
By MATTHEW DORAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK — The Norwalk High boys soccer team isn’t ready to start making grand predictions now that it’s undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state. The Bears learned that tough lesson last fall, when early declarations of expected greatness dissolved into a frustrating season of mediocrity.
For now, Norwalk is staying humble. It’s staying quiet.
This season, the main focus is on winning games, not just the idea of winning them.
“This year we’re taking it one game at a time and one practice at a time,” Norwalk senior Andres Torres said. ” We’re not looking at anyone else’s scores. We’re just worrying about ourselves right now.”
It’s a simple approach. It’s a bit cliche. But it’s definitely working. Just ask Wilton, which simply had no answer for Norwalk’s lethal display of speed, cohesiveness and ball control during a 4-0 whitewash Saturday night at Sam Testa Field.
Torres scored two goals while Spencer Jacoby and Kevin Joslyn added single tallies for the Bears, who dominated every aspect of the contest, finishing with a 31-2 advantage in shots and an overwhelming edge in possession time.
Norwalk is now 5-0 overall, having outscored its opponents 20-3. And it’s all because of its new mentality.
“We changed up our whole approach,” Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said. “Last year we got too caught up in looking ahead to FCIACs and states, but this year all we’ve been saying is worry about the next practice, worry about the next game. That’s what we’ve done. We haven’t looked down the schedule at anyone. The kids have really bought into it, and it shows.”
Wilton, which fell to 2-1-2 with its first loss of the season, never even came close to scoring a goal, partly because it could never get the ball on its feet, but mostly because of the play of Norwalk’s back line of Chris Jeffrey, Erick Romero, Danny Quintero and Nick Zuniga.
Norwalk freshman goalie Svet Kozak only needed to make one save to post his third shutout of the season, and that didn’t happen until the final seconds of the second half, well after most of Norwalk’s starters had left the field.
“Our back four has been great this year,” Laughton said. “The most shots we’ve given up in a game has been three, and most shots have been from a distance. They’ve really made Svet’s job pretty easy back there as far as minimizing any opportunities our opponents get.”
Norwalk only led 1-0 at halftime on the first goal from Torres, who took a feed from Ignacio Navarro up the left hash mark, cut across to the right side of the goal mouth, then ripped a shot back to the left side of the net with 3:41 left.
But the score didn’t tell how lopsided the first 40 minutes were. Norwalk just kept standing tall on defense, pushing the ball up field with its speed, playing long passes to Torres, waiting patiently for the right time to strike.
Wilton head coach Jim Lewicki knew exactly what the Bears were going to do, predicting the action before it happened. Still, the Warriors couldn’t stop Norwalk. That’s how good the Bears are.
“They’re one of the fastest teams I’ve ever seen,” Lewicki said. “Every single guy, especially the wings. And Torres, once he gets the ball on his feet it’s almost like it’s glued. They all have great technical skills. No question.” Norwalk wouldn’t say it, but Lewicki has no doubt about the Bears clearly being the team to beat in the FCIAC this season.
“Absolutely. No question about it,” Lewicki said. “They’re the best team I’ve seen so far.” Norwalk ascended to the state’s top ranking this week, receiving seven of the 12 firstplace votes in the CHSCA’s poll. But if the Bears are letting it get to their heads, they’re certainly not showing it.
“We haven’t even looked at the rankings,” said Torres, who already has eight goals this season. “We’re just looking at ourselves and that’s it. A lot of people might say we’re getting lucky or they might say we’re a good team, but we know how good we are and we just want to keep it going.”
The closest Norwalk has come to bragging is buying new long-sleeved jerseys.
“Hopefully we’ll be playing in cold weather this year,” Torres said.
Norwalk took a 2-0 lead in the third minute of the second half as Jacoby scored his first goal of the season off a pass from Zuniga on a sliding, leftfooted shot inside the left post. Torres scored his second goal with 23:26 left on the clock off a direct kick to make it 3-0. Torres started out with his foot on the ball on the right side from 35 yards out. Torres tapped it back to junior Chris Puente — who played a great game on the left sideline — and he quickly pushed it up the center of the field toward the Wilton goal. The ball deflected off Zuniga and a Wilton defender and right onto the foot of Torres on the right side and he buried it with a blistering shot inside the left post.
“We practice that play all the time,” Torres said. “We’ve done it two or three times and it’s worked every time.”
Joslyn, who had a number of good scoring chances during the course of the game, finally converted on a nice punch shot off a tremendous pass from Puente to make it 4-0 with 13 minutes left.
The only bright spot for Wilton was the play of senior goalie Mike DeSantis, who made 15 saves, including a number of diving stops and point-blank denials.
©2010 The Hour Newspaper