Norwalk, Westhill draw
By JOE RYAN
STAMFORD – The game between the Norwalk and Westhill boys soccer teams could have been an FCIAC playoff preview, but if either team were looking for an edge before then, there was none to be found as the two squads played to a draw Monday.
The Bears’ Patrick Barrantes sent a header into the net midway through the second half to preserve a 1-1 tie with the Vikings at the Westhill Field.
The tying score was set up by a perfect pass from Jose Canahui from about 30-yards away to Barrantes poaching at the opposite post.
Norwalk (10-1-5) is looking for a spark to carry them into the postseason. They have had a terrific season so far, but their coach Chris Laughton is worried because it seems they do not play up to their potential until they are facing adversity in a game and it can back fire in a playoff game where the competition is as talented as the Bears.
“I’m happy for the way we fought back after we went down. We refused to give up,” said Laughton. “We salvaged a tie, but it keeps coming back to the same problem of not starting the game the right way and we don’t have a lot of time to fix that. We’re running out of time.”
Westhill had the best of the play throughout the first 60 minutes of the contest, but a great save by Tyler Dalton robbed Samuel Jelliffe of a tally from corner kick in at the 20:21 mark of the first half and another shot by Jairo David Garcia went just wide from about 25 yards away.
The Vikings finally broke through when Max Atkinson chased down a ball in the Norwalk goal area. He first eluded a sprawling Dalton and outfought two Bear defenders before pushing a bounding ball into the net for a 1-0 lead with 3:51 left before intermission.
Westhill coach Joe Andrews was pleased with his team’s play for most of the game. They just had a few moments where they became vulnerable and Norwalk capitalized with a goal. The Vikings came into the game on an eight-game non-losing streak (5-0-3) and are now 8-4-3.
“I thought the first half we had a nice pace going. We played with intensity,” said Andrews. “I thought Norwalk came out in the second half a little faster than us and it caught up to us.
The Bears have eight seniors, which has to add to their collective confidence going into the playoff run. Laughton admitted it is nice to have veteran players this time of year even if they have not tasted postseason success yet.
“Our seniors, especially our captains, have been around for a long time. I know last year, we were an eight seed and fortunate to get in and although we didn’t win that first game the players got the experience and that’s important,” said Laughton. “But we’ve got to make sure we fix our problems and I’m confident we will.”