New Canaan boys soccer drops critical game against Norwalk
NORWALK -- If the opportunity to lock up the top seed in the FCIAC Tournament on Senior Night at Testa Field wasn't enough motivation for Norwalk, there was also history to contend with.
Last year, the Bears stormed into the conference postseason atop the standings and were dealt a stunning first-round knockout to New Canaan on penalty kicks.
Although the stakes weren't quite as high this time around and there's still hurdles to climb, Norwalk delivered a crucial hit to the Rams' postseason hopes while solidifying a spot of its own.
Behind Nick Zuniga, who racked up a natural hat trick within the first 20 minutes of action, the Bears stormed to a 4-2 victory over New Canaan on Monday and clinched the No. 1 seed in the FCIAC by improving to 13-1-1 overall.
"I wanted revenge. I'm not going to lie. I'm just glad my team showed up today," said Zuniga, who scored his first goal with 31:27 on the clock after collecting a through ball from Erick Romero and burying a low-lying shot far post.
"He's a game-changer," Norwalk head coach Chris Laughton said of Zuniga. "He's the type of kid everybody in the league knows about but he's still putting up goals and setting people up. He's had a great season so far."
Zuniga's goal came less than four minutes after the Rams (7-3-5) struck first after they were awarded a penalty kick after Steven Valente was taken down inside the box. Forward Jon-Luke Ferrandino set up for the shot and blasted the ball past goalkeeper Svet Kozak.
With its inability to maintain the lead, New Canaan entered its final regular season game against Fairfield Ludlowe Wednesday at Dunning Stadium with its playoff fate still very much in the air. The Rams, who were in seventh place, controlled their own playoff destiny, but the result was not available at press time.
"We've got one last game and it's a must-win for us. That's what we're going to focus on," New Canaan head coach Victor Sanchez said. "Hopefully they come out playing with the same energy and intensity that they came out with this game."
With 26:13 left in the first half, Zuniga gave Norwalk the lead for good when he collected a cross at the edge of the box from Andrew Melitsanopoulos, dribbled around a defender and knocked home a shot out of the reach of goalkeeper Scott Levene. He extended the lead to 3-1 less than six minutes later when he moved in unmatched on Levene and flipped a shot over the goalkeeper's head.
The Rams out-shot Norwalk 10-7 and mustered some chances but failed to find an equalizer. Valente scored with 14:55 left in the first half to cut it to 3-2.