NORWALK—The Norwalk field hockey team had gone 28 straight penalty corners without a goal, but coach Kyle Seaburg wasn’t worried.
“It’s kind of like a boxing match and every corner is a body blow,” Seaburg said. “You hope it wears them down because they’re doing 50-yard sprints that are actually 100 yards because they have to keep going back. But it’s a battle. It’s the state tournament and it’s always a battle, so keep working and keep executing.”
The result was a first-round (state tournament) TKO of Simsbury, as the Bears were finally sparked by a penalty-corner tally and rolled to a 5-1 win at Testa Field.
The win puts fourth-seeded Norwalk into Friday’s quarterfinal round against fifth-seeded Darien. The Bears and Blue Wave have split two games this season.
Frances Mirabile and Lily L’Archevesque scored two goals each for the Bears, while Adriana Alfisi added a single tally.
“I’m creating most of the time, so it was nice to get in there and have the feeling of scoring for my team,” L’Archevesque said. “That’s what matters most. I’m just trying to help my team.”
During a 3-0 FCIAC semifinal loss to Darien, the Bears went 18 penalty corners without scoring a goal.
They came out of the starting gates against Simsbury and failed to score on its first 10.
Despite 18 corners in the first half, Norwalk only led 1-0 when Mirabile pounced on a rebound of a Shannon McEveney corner blast and pushed it past the goalie with 18:31 to play in the first half.
Norwalk continued to dominate territorially throughout the first half, but weren’t able to score on Simsbury goalie Sarah Ackels (21 saves).
“Their goalie was doing a great job,” Seaburg said. “We had to get in front of her, screen her a bit. We were given her open looks. We just had to execute better.”
Simsbury coach Brooke Bulmer was pleased her undermanned Trojans were down just one at the break.
“We were missing two huge components and we had girls that hadn’t had much playing time on the field,” said Bulmer, noting that her starting center forward (mono) and center back (death in the family) were both out. “I was pleased we never gave up. We had a couple runs, but I think we got caught with people out of position. They got tired and I didn’t have the subs I usually have.”
In the second half, Norwalk took advantage of Simsbury’s two-hour bus ride weariness, short bench and corner sprints by running away with it.
Just 5:12 into the second half, Alfisi punched home a rebound to make it a 2-0 game.
L’Archevesque scored the next two goals (one assisted by Mirabile) as the Bears increased their advantage to 4-0.
Mirabile, from McEveney, capped the Norwalk side of the ledger with 1:07 to play.
“At halftime, we just talked about executing,” Seaburg said. “A lot of times we’ll ask them (the players), ‘What do you see? You’re on the field.’ ”
Norwalk was awarded five more penalty corners in the second half, giving them 23 for the game — compared to just two for Simsbury.
The Bears’ defense — led by senior captain Victoria Chiapetta — almost pitched a shutout, giving up a goal with just 42.6 seconds left when Abigail Interrante raced into the circle and scored.
For much of the game, though, the Trojans had problems pushing the ball over the midfield line.
Hannah Parks, Sawyer Milillo, Alfisi and Mia Lanzarotto all helped defend in front of Bears goalie Jessica Monteiro (1 save).
“I think we just recover well and keep talking to each other,” Chiapetta said. “We always talk, so that helps. We just want to stop the ball every chance we get. We wanted the shutout, but we got the win. That’s what is important to us.”
“I believe in our team, and we’re always going to bounce back from something like that,” said L’Archvesque, when asked about her team’s penalty-corner drought.
NORWALK 5, SIMSBURY 1
SIMSBURY 0 1—1
NORWALK 1 4—5
Records: Simsbury 10-6-1, Norwalk 16-3; Goals: S—Abigail Interrante; N—Frances Mirabile 2, Lily L’Archevesque 2, Adriana Alfisi; Assists: N—Shannon McEveney 2, Mirabile; Goalies: S—Sarah Ackels (21 saves), N—Jessica Monteiro (1 save).