NORWALK, Conn. – It has been three weeks since Norwalk High soccer player Andrew Melitsanopoulos and his teammates won their first state championship in 46 years. The thrill remains refresh for Melitsanopoulos, who was chosen as The Norwalk Daily Voice’s Athlete of the Month for November.
“When we turned our jerseys in, I thought it might start to wear off a little bit,’’ said Melitsanopoulos, a defender. “But it hasn’t. I think I’ll be on cloud nine for a while.”
He was one of the leaders for the Bears, who finished 21-1-1 and won a share of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference league championship for the first time since 2004. He scored the game-winning goal in the state championship game against Fairfield Prep, drilling a first-half penalty kick into the net to spark a 2-0 victory.
Melitsanopoulos earned first team all-league honors for the second straight time. Teammates Santiago Muriel, Kevin Joslyn and Nacho Navarro also earned first-team honors, along with junior goalkeeper Svet Kozak. Melitsanopoulos was part of a 13-member senior class that knocked on the championship door for three years, only to turned away.
“Our season started as soon as last season ended,’’ said Melitsanopoulos, who led a defense that registered 14 shutouts. “We felt that if we didn’t win an FCIAC or state championship, we’d be selling ourselves short. When we lost last year, we learned from it.”
The dedication extended into summer, when the Bears improved their conditioning and polished their skills. “We’d wake up at 7 in the morning and then lift, run, do anything we could to get better,’’ he said. “We rarely took days off. Just being with each other, working, really helped our chemistry. We felt that if just kept everyone healthy and stayed as fit as we could, we shouldn’t lose.”
A midseason loss in October to Wilton provided a wake-up call for Norwalk, which proceeded to run the table. The Bears went into the Class LL tournament as the No. 1 seed. They had some close goals – squeaking out one-goal wins over Staples, Newtown and Stamford – before putting Prep away in the championship game.
Melitsanopoulos will continue wearing green and white next year when he plays at Manhattan. “My mom told me that any school more than two hours away was out of the equation,’’ he said. “I had to stay close to home.”