Bears rally to gain tie
By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
WESTPORT — It always seems to be a close game whenever the Norwalk and Staples boys soccer teams get together and Friday was no different.
Thanks to a goal off a penalty kick by Nick Zuniga, the Bears came back to forge a 2-2 tie with the Wreckers in a physical, fast-paced FCIAC encounter in front of a large crowd at Loeffler Field.
Norwalk is now 4-1-1 while Staples remained unbeaten at 5-0-1.” It was a hard-fought game,” said Bears head coach Chris Laughton, whose team trailed 2-0 with close to 30 minutes remaining in the contest.” Every time Norwalk and Staples play, you know it’s going to be a good game. They’re surely not going to concede and we’re not going to give in either.”
Dylan Hoy netted both of the Wreckers’ goals, the second which came on a rebound following a save by Norwalk goalie Svet Kozak off a shot by Lorenz Esposito at 50:10. That would’ve seemed to give Staples a comfortable lead but head coach Dan Woog said he was never comfortable going against an explosive team like Norwalk. “That’s the FCIAC,” he said. “I told these guys welcome to the FCIAC. Things don’t always go your way but if you come out with a tie in the regular season, in some ways that’s okay. Norwalk has been gunning for us since last year. It was a typical Staples-Norwalk game.”
Almost immediately after Hoy’s second goal, the Bears answered with a goal of their own.
Kevin Joslyn played a ball into the middle of the penalty area and as Wreckers goalie James Hickok came out to challenge, Matt Capomolla headed it into the bottom left corner of the net to cut the lead to 2-1 at 50:32.
Laughton said coming back with a goal so quickly boosted his team.
“It’s one of those things that the longer it goes on where you haven’t scored and you’re down 2-nothing, then the panic starts to set in and they think the game’s over,” he said. “That next five minutes, no matter who you play, is always crucial because the other team just scored, they’re usually a little bit more relaxed and then your team is either going to get fired up and come back or be demoralized and give up. They knew the game wasn’t over with 20-something minutes left and they were going to fight until the final whistle.”
Staples had a great chance to go ahead by two goals again but a rocket shot off the foot of Harry Birch hit the crossbar in the 57th minute. The Wreckers were held in check the rest of the way led by the defense of Andrew Melitsanopoulos and Alejandro Rivera.
Norwalk had a couple more scoring chances thereafter but were thwarted by Hickok. Joslyn took a shot but was stopped in the 58th minute and Hickok made a diving save off a shot by Zuniga following a cross from Mike Broncati in the 72nd minute.
Hickok was aided on several occasions by Birch, Taylor McNair and Jake Malowitz in the back.
“He’s a great goalkeeper,” Woog said of Hickok, who finished with eight saves. “We love our defense. We love what they give us and the way they play together. It’s a tough league and you’re going to get scored on from time to time. You hope you get the goals to offset them.”
But the Bears continued their assault.
In the 74th minute, Zuniga passed the ball into Nacho Navarro deep in the penalty area. Hickok tried to gather up the ball but collided with Navarro and a penalty kick was called.
Zuniga shot the ball to the right post. Hickok deflected the ball up and it hit the crossbar, dropped and rolled into the net for the goal at 74:27.
Neither team could get off a solid shot the rest of the way, resulting in the deadlock.
“Even going down two goals, we knew we could come back from that and we did it against Westhill last Saturday,” Laughton said. “I was confident we would come back, it was just a matter of time. I’m glad we were able to fight back the way we were. We’re disappointed we didn’t get the win but I think we learned a few things about our team today, which was good moving forward.”
It was a back-and-forth, defensive first half with neither team able to do much offensively. With time winding down in the half, Staples’ David Hoffman made a run down the left sideline and crossed the ball to Hoy, who was coming in from the right, and he booted the ball into the bottom left corner of the net with eight seconds on the clock to give the Wreckers a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“Chris and I said at the end of the game we hope we have a repeat in Norwalk (for the FCIAC championship),” Woog said.
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