By JOHN NASH Hour Staff Writer
SOUTH WINDSOR — The last thing the Norwalk boys soccer team could afford in Tuesday’s CIAC Class LL first round tournament game at South Windsor was to get off to a slow start.
So when the fourth-seeded Bobcats jumped out to a two-goal lead just 10 minutes into the game, the 29th-seeded Bears sensed they were in deep trouble.
South Windsor’s Nicholas Heckt scored a hat trick — his sixth of the season — while raising his season-goal total to 31 tallies as the Bobcats rolled to a 4-1 win over Norwalk on a rain-soaked Bobcat Field.
“One of the big things we’ve talked about over the last week or so was coming out in the first 15 minutes and really being the aggressor,” said Norwalk coach Chris Laughton. “The first 15 minutes we were the complete opposite and they made us pay. That’s what good teams do to you.”
Some pristine passing set South Windsor up for its first goal as four bang-bang passes culminated in Connor Duff sliding a pass to Ryan Lynch for a 1-0 lead just seven minutes into the game.
Three minutes later, Dexter Tenn slid a through ball to Heckt who easily knocked the Norwalk defender off the ball to gain some room, took a few touches and scored his first goal to make it a 2-0, Bobcats.
“I think the biggest part was coach told us to step up in the first 15 minutes of the game, because they were going to underestimate us and we did the opposite of that,” said Norwalk senior goalkeeper Tyler Dalton, who made eight saves. “We just let them take it to us the first 15, and because of that we really suffered. That’s where the game was determined.”
South Windsor coach Peter Lepak said he wanted to use Norwalk’s aggressiveness against them.
“We watched them on film and saw they were really aggressive up top,” said Lepak. “We wanted to answer that the same way and then we packed it in (on defense) and tried to keep them off the score sheet for as long as we could.”
The Bears had two shots to cut the lead in half, but couldn’t finish one and couldn’t get a fortunate bounce on the second.
Senior midfielder George Kutrubis let off a shot to the low left side of the goal with 22:41 left to play in the half, but South Windsor’s Josh Inkel made the save to keep Norwalk scoreless.
A few minutes later, Norwalk’s Alex Torres sent a cross that Inkel deflected, but before Sebastian Echeverri could pounce on the rebound, the South Windsor goalie dove on the ball to corral it just in time.
In a play similar to South Windsor’s second goal, Heckt again made a well-timed run, got himself some room by using his body and fired off a shot that led to the Bobcats’ third goal with 10:27 left to play.
Norwalk looked to respond right away when Alexander Escalante fired off a shot that caromed back into the field of play, but again Inkel was able to jump on the rebound before the Bears could get to it, sending the game into the break with the Bobcats up three.
“We respected them too much, but we didn’t go out hard enough,” said Kutrubis, who missed most of the final 20 minutes after going head-to-head with a Bobcats player and was forced to the bench via concussion protocol. “They got that quick goal and that frazzled us, and they kept coming and kept coming. We just took to long to answer.”
Heckt and Tenn joined forces again for a fourth goal, putting South Windsor up 4-0 and quashing any hopes of a miracle comeback by Norwalk.
With 16:20 left to play, Norwalk finally got on the board when Loizos Karaiskos slid a pass to Jose Carvajal, whose shot to the far post make it 4-1.
“I thought we had some other chances, but we just didn’t execute,” said Laughton.
Inkel finished with 12 saves for South Windsor.
The Bobcats (14-2-1) advanced to second-round play, hosting Hall on Thursday.
Norwalk ends the season with a 5-7-5 mark.
“I hope the young guys learn from it,” said Laughton. “It was a theme all year, about getting off to a good start. (South Windsor was) the better team and they wanted it more than we did. We didn’t execute the game plan and that happens sometimes.”