Hawks maintain level of excellence

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls volleyball team saw its run in the Class M tournament come to an end in straight sets last week.

The top-seeded Hawks were upended, 3-0 (26-24, 25-13, 25-15), by No. 4 and eventual champion Waterford in the semifinals Nov. 18 at Guilford High School.

After a back-and-forth game one the Hawks (21-3) were not able to respond as Waterford (22-5) controlled the final two games of the match. Carla Piccolo (seven kills) had a pair of kills in game one to tie the score at 24-24, but Woodland couldn’t take advantage.

Sam White had seven kills and Cameron Caswell had 18 digs for the Hawks but Waterford ran away with game two to take a 2-0 advantage. Woodland fought back and held a 12-11 lead in game three before Waterford closed out the deal.

The match marked the fourth consecutive year Woodland has reached at least the semifinals.

“It says a lot about the commitment, dedication and hard work that these girls have put into the program,” said Woodland head coach Jim Amato, about the semifinal streak.

Amato continued, “It’s what makes sports so exciting, to challenge yourself, set goals as a team and then to achieve those goals.”

Four years ago Woodland entered unchartered waters playing in the Class M semifinals for the first time in school history. Now, when the Hawks set sail in September it’s merely a point of destination. Woodland joined Cheshire and RHAM this year as the only three teams in the state to have played in the semifinals four years in a row.

Woodland has compiled an 86-14 record over the past four years. Amato, who is in his 10th season at the helm, guided the Hawks to their fourth NVL title this season. Woodland has played in the NVL championship game eight times in Amato’s tenure.

“To get to this level and to maintain that level of excellence is a direct reflection of what our coaching staff has been teaching these girls,” Amato said. “The knowledge, the experience and the love of the game from our coaches, Chris Tomlin, Jenna Broadbent and Jessica DeGennaro, are the reason why we have been able to build this kind of foundation.”

Woodland won the state championship in 2013, finished as runner-up in 2012 and played in the semifinals in 2014 and 2015. This season the Hawks had a game match record of 63-22 led by a strong group of seniors who have made it to the final four every year of their high school career.

“We are here to play volleyball, period,” Amato said. “Early on we teach the skills and then at the JV level we teach different systems. At the varsity level we mix it up on how we run the floor and how we prepare for each opponent.”

NVL tournament MVP senior Cameron Caswell has been the catalyst of the Hawks defense guarding the back row and rarely allowing a ball to hit the floor. Seniors Carla Piccolo, Sam White and Jenna Boncal have been a force to be reckoned with in the front row. Seniors Gina Farina and Ruth Costanza have added to the middle row depth that has garnered this senior class NVL titles in 2013 and 2015 to go along with a state title.

While Woodland graduates six seniors, the Hawks will return a strong nucleus of experienced players next year, including McKenna Cronin, Ally Mayne, Emily Brouillette, Maddy Hupprich, Jen Triana and Stephanie Krebbs, that will look to maintain Woodland’s level of excellence.

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