NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk High School’s boys soccer team hasn't forgotten its losses in the first round of the league tournament in the last two years. The Bears used those losses to New Canaan as motivation this year.
“We have 13 seniors on this team, and they want this,’’ coach Chris Laughton said after the Bears defeated Wilton, 5-1, in Tuesday’s semifinals. After the championship game was canceled due to scheduling constraints caused by Hurricane Sandy, the Bears will share the league title with Ridgefield. It is Norwalk’s first league title since 2002.
“They want to win states, too,’’ Laughton said. “They want this to be their legacy. We haven’t won a state title since 1966. They don’t want to stop here.”
Norwalk (16-1-1) came in as the top seed in each of the past two years. Two years ago, the Bears lost in penalty kicks. Last year, the Rams scored with seven minutes remaining. Both losses were devastating.
“This year, we’re a family and we did it,’’ said senior Nacho Navarro, who scored two goals and earned MVP honors in Tuesday’s win. “It’s different this year.”
Norwalk begins play Thursday in the Class LL tournament as the No. 1 seed when it meets Hamden at 2 p.m. The road will not be easy for the Bears, who could face league rival Staples in the second round and Wilton in the quarterfinals. They will be the target from here on out, the team that everyone wants to knock off.
But the Norwalk team is on a mission. It cruised in the league tournament, beating Danbury, 2-0, before taking out Wilton. The victory in the semifinals avenged Norwalk’s only loss, a 4-1 setback in early October.
The biggest difference this year is the Bears' defense. Anchored by senior Andrew Melitsanopoulos, Norwalk has posted 12 shutouts this fall. The Bears' offensive firepower is led by Kevin Joslyn (17 goals), Santiago Muriel (10), Navarro (12) and Matt Capomolla (eight).
Norwalk’s last title appearance was in 2004, when it lost to Newtown, 3-1. Laughton, a former Norwalk star who earned all-league honors in 2000, is thrilled the Bears ended the league championship drought. But like his players, he doesn’t want it to end there.
“The players and coaches have put their heart and soul into this,’’ he said. “Their dreams were shattered when they lost to New Canaan in those playoff games. We want to keep going and see how far we can take this.”