Battled-tested

Hawks eye another trip to NVL final

Woodland seniors, from left, Alexandra Pettas, Paige Gainey, Rayhan Luzeri and Katie Rioux will lead the Hawks this season as they seek to make it to the NVL tennis championship for the fourth straight year. –KEN MORSE

Woodland seniors, from left, Alexandra Pettas, Paige Gainey, Rayhan Luzeri and Katie Rioux will lead the Hawks this season as they seek to make it to the NVL tennis championship for the fourth straight year. –KEN MORSE

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls tennis team knows an awful lot about-facing pressure.

The Hawks head into the season looking to make it back to the NVL championship match for the fourth season in a row.

Last year’s NVL runner-up only lost two seniors to graduation and return almost the entire lineup that went 12-3 under first-year head coach Kate Gavigan.

“You don’t make it to the NVL championship match three years in a row and come in the next season without a target on your back,” Gavigan said.

“I’m sure the girls feel the pressure. I feel the pressure,” she added with a laugh. “But it makes you just a little more competitive and that’s a good thing.”

Now in her second year at the helm, Gavigan said she feels more in control, but she couldn’t do it without the help of former coach Jess DeGennaro.

“She is my right hand. She always is available if I have any questions and that makes my job so much easier,” Gavigan said.

What will make the Hawks’ job easier this season is having junior Allison Mayne back to lead the way. Mayne was undefeated last year before falling in the NVL individual semifinals.

Woodland also has an experienced tandem in senior Alexandra Pettas and junior Angelina Padilla, who won the doubles match in last year’s NVL championship match against Watertown, returning.

The Hawks will also rely on the experience of seniors Katie Rioux, Paige Gainey and Rayhan Luzeri. Juniors Alyssa Varesio, Elif Abedin and Ariana Sherwood add to the team’s depth and leadership.

“These girls have come back ready to compete,” Gavigan said. “We spent an entire week working through drills and conditioning and these girls are ready to give it their all.”

Woodland’s roster is loaded with depth. Sophomores Carly Erickson and Amanda Doughney are looking to take on a bigger role this season along with Brittney Casson, Morgan Stockheimer and Jordan Theroux.

Freshmen Alanna Carasone, Kaitlyn Crosby, Bayan Galal, Mia Piccolo, Rachel Poulos and Cassi Quayson have shown the kind of athleticism that could amount to pushing for varsity time.

“We have a really good athletic group of freshmen that will only make us a stronger team,” Gavigan said. “A little bit of competition will make us that much better and have us prepared for our opponent.”

Woodland is scheduled to visit Naugatuck April 4 to open the season. The Hawks will also face St. Paul and Seymour the first week of the season.