Norwalk blanks Prep in Class LL finals
For all that the Norwalk boys soccer team had already accomplished this season, there was still one more crowning achievement the Bears needed to put a bow on their historic 2012 campaign.
Well, they can finally check state title off the list too.
Senior defender Andrew Melitsanopoulos scored on a penalty kick in the 31st minute, and the lethal combination of Nacho Navarro and Kevin Joslyn added the insurance goal with less than three minutes to play as top-seeded Norwalk completed its mission with a hard-fought 2-0 victory over third-seeded Fairfield Prep in the Class LL finals at standing room only New Canaan High School Friday.
It is the first state championship since 1966 for the Bears (21-1-1), who now have one final piece of hardware to go along with a share of the FCIAC title and the No. 7 ranking in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
"These kids have been through so much and overcome a lot of adversity," Norwalk coach Chris Laughton said. "I'm really proud of them, celebrating this moment with their family and friends is something they'll remember for the rest of their lives."
Bidding for their first-ever state title, the Jesuits (20-3-1) nearly got on the board first but a goal by leading scorer Austin Sims was disallowed midway through the first half.
After a few quality chances themselves, Norwalk would finally get the golden opportunity it was looking for when Santiago Muriel stole a clear and dribbled into the box where he was taken down.
Enter Melitsanopolous, a Manhattan-bound defender with a rocket for a right leg.
Melitsanopolous went upper right corner with a ball that Villianova-bound keeper Will Steiner had no chance on.
"I know he's a great goalie and I was really nervous before the shot," Melitsanopolous said. "It worked out for the best though, and this is just an amazing feeling. We were dubbed the favorite in the FCIAC for three years and had some tough losses, but I think we had to wait our turn. This was the year we put it all together."
In the final minutes of an action-packed second half, Joslyn gained control of a ball outside the Jesuits box and slid across a perfect pass to Navarro -- his longtime teammate -- who put it in the back of the net.
That gave the Bears a 2-0 lead, and the countdown to the championship celebration was on.
For Norwalk's nine senior starters, this day was the end of a storybook ride. For the players who will return next season like goalie Svet Kozak (six saves), it was simply a pleasure to have have played a helping hand in the history-making season.
"This is the greatest feeling I've ever had," Kozak said. "Next year will be a rebuilding one, but this one we're all going to remember. Our seniors meant so much to the program, so I'm really happy for them."
The premier of the Class LL finals will be broadcast on MSG Varsity, io ch. 14, on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.