BEACON FALLS — Last season, the Woodland girls basketball team returned to the state tournament after missing it for the first time in eight seasons. This year, the Hawks want to advance further.
Woodland, which finished 10-12 last season, a four-win improvement from the year before, returns an experienced group that looks to capitalize on the improvement from the 2012-13 season. The goals for this campaign are set higher.
“Every year we’re trying to build off what we did the year before,” Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said. “We were 10-12 last year and we want to be better this year.”
The Hawks return two seniors and are led by captain and center Andrea Piccolo, who led the team in scoring during last season. It ended with a state tournament first-round loss at Plainfield.
“Andrea is our rock,” Moffo said. “She’s a great role model and a great leader.”
Erika Tyrrell, a first-year senior, will give Woodland another option off the bench playing at the forward positions.
The Hawks recovered from an 0-3 start last year to finish the rest of the season over .500, with several key wins led by the defense. The team’s success was built on defense, something Moffo continues to preach each day in practice.
“I’m a defensive-minded coach,” Moffo said. “Defense wins championships and I’m always stressing that.”
Becky Hale, the team’s junior captain, will play shooting guard. Hale brings experience and a good work ethic.
“Becky is a great kid,” Moffo said. “She works all year to be a better player. She has a good nose for the ball and what to do with it.”
Hale will be joined in the backcourt by sophomores Carla Piccolo and Cameron Caswell. Carla Piccolo is an aggressive player who can drive to the hoop to create offense, while Caswell could have a breakout year.
“By the end of the year, people will be saying her name,” Moffo said of Caswell. “She can help us this year.”
Another sophomore, Jill Chicano, will see time at small forward. Chicano could play the three or four spot, and can provide some physical play around the basket.
Four freshmen will also compete for time — Emily Brouillette (guard), Maddie Hupprich (guard), Jenha Pannone (guard) and Jen Tirana (center).
The team may lack a lot of experience, but Moffo stresses to her team that anyone can win on any given night.
“We’re young, but like I told the team, as long as two teams show up, either team can win,” Moffo said. “That’s our motto.”
Woodland will open the season Dec. 11 at home against St. Paul before hitting the road the following week for games Dec. 18 at Sacred Heart and Dec. 20 at Crosby.