BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team catapulted into the NVL limelight by ripping off an eight-game win streak after opening the season with a loss. Since qualifying for the state tournament with a win over Sacred Heart two weeks ago, the Hawks have wobbled a bit.
Woodland dropped four of its last five games, and suddenly a team of destiny is now at the crossroads of a season filled with so much promise.
The Hawks played then undefeated St. Paul to the wire in a five-point setback, which was an encouraging sign. A win over Ansonia by a wide margin got them back on track and then they hit a brick wall. A lopsided loss to Holy Cross was followed up by a 16-point defeat to Watertown.
On Monday, the Hawks fell behind Wolcott, 31-22, at the half. Woodland (9-5) made a run at the Eagles (8-4) in the third quarter to close the gap to 42-39, but couldn’t finish the comeback in a tough 59-52 loss.
“We need to learn from our mistakes and move on putting the games we’ve already played behind us. … Holy Cross is one of the best teams in the league and Watertown just shot the lights out,” Woodland head coach Jess Moffo said.
The road only gets stepper from here on in as Woodland gets set to face a few more teams that have aspirations of finishing the season strong, including return engagements against Watertown and Wolcott.
Moffo has noticed that the team plays with more intensity at home, adding that if the Hawks get back to playing stout defense that defensive effort will feed the offense.
The Hawks have the offensive firepower to get back on track.
Morina Bojka has been a welcome addition to the Hawks. Bojka scored 34 points against Watertown, her second 30-plus point game this season. The junior transfer student from Chase Collegiate leads the team with 15 points per game. She has scored in double figures nines time through 14 games and has led the team in scoring on seven occasions.
“Since the very first day this team has accepted me with open arms,” Bojka said. “That has certainly helped with the transition to a new team. Earning that trust goes both ways and I know this team has a lot of ability. We are in a bit of a slump right now but we have the talent to get back to that level.”
Carla Piccolo is another key to the Hawks offense. The senior scored in double figures in the first eight games of the season averaging 14.5 per game. That average has dipped over the past six games.
“I try not to focus on personal stats,” Piccolo said. “What we can’t do as a team is put too much pressure on us to try and force something that’s not there. I realize I need to get back into the flow of the offense, and that will come. There is too much talent on this team not to succeed.”
The Hawks will need at least two scoring threats so teams can’t double team one player and shut down the Woodland offense.
Juniors Jenna Pannone and Jess Triana have been a force in the paint. Maddie Hupprich and Haley Andrews have both contributed to the offense. Sophomores Cam Johnson, Eliza Smith and Megan Sirowich have all made their presence felt, as well.
“As seniors we need to set the example,” Jill Chicano said. “We have a lot of younger players who are playing key roles and we wouldn’t be where we are without them.”
Woodland’s defense has allowed an average of 38 points per game, but over the last three games that has swelled to 67 points per game. A return to that defensive presence will certainly be a step in the right direction for Woodland to finish the season on a strong note.
“Defense depends on what team you are facing and what their strengths are,” senior Cam Caswell said. “I think if we came out in a box-and-one against Watertown we might have been able to slow them down, but you can’t predict that someone is going to shoot the lights out on you.
“I don’t think this team has lost anything intensity wise. We are just reaching a part of the season where teams are playing for more now than earlier in the year. As the goal gets bigger the hill gets a little steeper and we just need to pick it up.”
Woodland will play Seymour Wednesday. The Hawks will be at Crosby on Friday, before returning home next Tuesday to face Torrington.