The Truckers opened Division II sectional play with a 2-0 win over Mansfield Senior on Monday at the Norwalk Soccer Complex.
With the win, the Truckers (6-9-1) advanced to Thursday's 5 p.m. sectional title match at top seed Vermilion (13-1).
But the victory also runs a little deeper.
Monday's win marked the 19th time in the 26-year history of the program that the Truckers have won at least one tournament match. Only in seven seasons (1992, 1995, 1999, 2002, 2009, 2010, 2015) did Norwalk not win at least one postseason match — a history that includes two district championships in 1997 and 2013.
“We had a favorable draw, and that kind of helped,” Norwalk coach Jon Kijowski said. “Our boys have had a tendency throughout the years to come ready to play come tournament time.
“Even in years where we've struggled in the regular season, they seem ready to go for the postseason,” he added. “And I guess that's pretty evident with that stat.”
Norwalk opened the scoring about 15 minutes in when leading scorer Petie Adamos scored off a corner kick from Luke Kelly.
Carlos Galvez followed that up with an unassisted goal for a 2-0 lead — and that was more than enough for the Norwalk defense. The Truckers only allowed five shots on goal, which were easily defended by goalkeeper Zach Albright.
Norwalk finished with 14 shots on goal, though it had trouble finishing in the final 10 minutes. The Truckers had three prime chances at another goal, only to be denied each time — including on a penalty kick with 2:37 left in the match.
“We did have a lot of chances, but I'm not too upset we didn't finish,” Kijowski said. “We got to about 20 minutes left and our game plan was to hold back a little bit. Yeah, I'd like to see more shots go in — but at that point we're just looking to move on.”
The final 10 minutes also proved eventful, as a pair of yellow cards on a Mansfield player resulted in an ejection.
“It can be interesting, but that's not our first time where things got a little chippy at the end of a match,”Adamos said. “I'm just glad we didn't get any cards that could hurt us on Thursday.”
Adamos knows of the strong history in the Norwalk program — but was quick to add he and his classmates are playing with a sense of desperation.
“It's our senior year, so we want to go far as possible,” he said. “We feel like we've gotten together here the last few weeks, and we'll give our best shot and see what happens.”
The Sailors won the Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division championship this season, and for three weeks appeared in the Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association state poll in Div. II.
Vermilion also beat the Truckers handily by scores of 4-1 at home on Sept. 11 and 4-0 at Norwalk on Sept. 18.
It won't be easy come Thursday.
“Vermilion is a very tough team, but we're excited to go back over there and get a third shot at them,” Kijowski said. “Both teams are familiar with each other. They are both good programs, and our boys are very eager and up for the challenge. It will be fun.”