Norwalk’s boys soccer team defeated Clyde 1-0 in a Division II sectional semifinal Monday at Robert Bishop Stadium.
The Truckers (6-9-2) scored the game’s lone goal just over five minutes into the second half as Luke Kelly found Eli Cruz through Clyde’s defense. Cruz was 1-vs-1 against Flier keeper Lance Daniels and slotted the ball into the upper right corner.
“We showed some character tonight,” Norwalk coach Jon Kijowski said. “I don’t think we played very well in the first half, but the second half we kind of put it together. I thought we were jamming the ball down the middle too much and I wanted to get the ball out wide. We didn’t do what we really wanted, but we got away with a win against a good team and we’ll take it.”
Norwalk also defeated the Fliers 1-0 during the regular season, Sept. 15 at Clyde.
The Fliers pushed forward late in the second half and had a pair of opportunities that looked like they could be the tying goal, but weren’t quite enough.
The first — with 18 minutes left — was a cross from Brock Newsome that the Fliers put past the Norwalk keeper, but the ball was brought back to the sideline for a Trucker throw in where Newsome had played it out of bounds.
The second, in the waning minutes, was a free kick from junior Seth Hohman that hit the outside side netting.
Norwalk’s defenders didn’t make any positional changes for the Fliers’ second half offensive pressure, but after taking the lead, didn’t go forward as much as they had in the first half.
“I told my defenders, just stay home, and we did,” Kijowski said. “Especially that last 12 or 15 minutes I screamed across the field and I said, ‘guys just stay home at this point. Don’t do anything else, we have the lead, just hold it.’ We stuck to our game plan. We didn’t switch formation or anything.”
Norwalk had the better of the chances in the first half, keeping Clyde’s defense under pressure for most of the first 40 minutes.
The Fliers’ chances came when they looked for Newsome through Norwalk’s defense, but the Truckers were able to close down Newsome or catch him offside.
Meanwhile, Norwalk hit the crossbar twice from distance as Ian Keefer hit the bar with 20 minutes to play and Kelly hit it with 11:18 to go in the half.
“That’s our year summed up right there,” Kijowski said of the two first half shots hitting the crossbar. “Frustrating, yes, but happy that we’re creating opportunities. I would have liked to have a couple better opportunities, just in closer. We tend to fire away from 15-20 yards out and that angers me a little bit.”
The Truckers also had a pair of promising free kicks from around 25 yards out — one that sailed wide right with a crashing Norwalk player sliding and just missing it with 23 minutes left and one with 7:26 to go that Kelly attempted to chip over the Fliers’ wall. The wall hit the attempt back out to Cruz, whose shot was deflected out for a corner kick.
Norwalk’s win Monday comes after a rough end to the regular season. The Truckers lost to Sandusky 7-0 Oct. 11 and Oak Harbor 7-1 Oct. 13.
“I’d like to give a shoutout to all my players,” Kijowski said. “They played with a lot of heart. We lost a little momentum towards the end of the season, but they responded very well and I’m proud of every single one of them.”
Norwalk returns to action Wednesday in a sectional final against Northern Ohio League champion Ontario, who the Truckers lost to 9-1 to start the season Aug. 23, then lost 4-1 against on Sept. 20.
“The first time we played Ontario was the first game of the season and it was a little rough,” Kijowski said. “The second game we responded a little better. I think these guys are hungry to go back after them. If we just play the way we’re capable of, if we do what we’re supposed, if we stay disciplined, we’ll put up a fight.”