Hawks make a habit of stepping up

Woodland’s Elif Abedin lines up a shot during her match against Torrington’s Shae Eucalitto April 19 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the match, 6-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — There is something to be said for the saying, “Only the strong survive.” The Woodland girls tennis team is surviving by being resourceful.

At the top of the lineup, senior Ally Mayne and junior Amanda Doughney have the top two singles spots wrapped up. They are both 8-1 on the season and have led the Hawks to an 8-1 record following a 5-2 win over Seymour on Wednesday and a 7-0 victory over Crosby on Thursday.

Doughney’s lone loss this season came April 5 in a 9-8 tie-breaker against Tori Kilbourne of St. Paul, the only team to beat the Hawks so far.

“That has helped me to remain focused,” Doughney said. “I try not to think about the importance of Ally and I at the top of the lineup. I just want to continue to develop and strengthen any weaknesses in my game.”

Doughney is 7-0 since the loss to St. Paul, including five wins by 8-0 margins.

“There is a little bit of pressure playing the top tier in the NVL,” Mayne said “Playing against Natashia (Kempes) from St. Paul, who is nationally ranked, is always a great match. I enjoy the challenge playing against all the other No. 1 opponents.”

Woodland head coach Kate Gavigan knows how fortunate the Hawks are to have two solid players at the top of the lineup to get them going.

“Amanda comes prepared mentally each and every day. She will spend the time to work on her weaknesses to make herself a stronger player,” Gavigan said. “Ally has carried the burden of being a No. 1 player all four years and she has done it with such ease and grace. She just doesn’t get rattled. She has really been an outstanding player to watch over these last four years.”

The No. 3 and No. 4 singles spots have seen five different players in the mix due to injuries and other unforeseen circumstances. However, Gavigan has found the resources in a deep and talented roster to fill the void.

Ariana Sherwood was in the No. 3 slot until an injury sent her to the sidelines. She is finding her way back through the No. 2 doubles team.

Elif Abedin was at No. 4 but moved over to No. 3 when Sherwood was injured. That opened the door for Morgan Stockheimer to move up to singles from the No. 2 doubles team with Rachel Poulos.

“We’ve had our share of things happen where I had to move the lineup around,” Gavigan said. “But we have been lucky to have the kind of fundamental players that can fill in the roles that are needed. Stockheimer has been amazing, especially making the transition from doubles to singles.”

Opportunities also arose for Carly Erickson and Kaitlyn Crosby to step into the No. 3 and No.  4 singles spots.

The Hawks have also mixed and matched some at the No. 2 doubles spot with Bayan Galal stepping in at times.

Woodland’s Morgan Stockheimer returns a shot during her match against Torrington’s Tatum Marino April 19 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the match, 6-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland is solid at No. 1 doubles with seniors Angelina Padilla and Alyssa Varesio teaming up for the last four years. The Hawks are also starting to see another close-knit tandem come together in sophomores Alanna Carasone and Mia Piccolo. The sophomore duo is undefeated at 9-0 on the year.

“Alanna and Mia came to us last year as soccer players,” Gavigan said. “They have worked hard together to get better. And they have a desire to play the game. They worked out during the offseason and got some primary instruction … you can see how much they’ve developed.”

As the Hawks prepare for what they hope will be a deep run in the NVL tournament, they have a leader in Mayne who knows what it takes come the postseason. As a freshman, she finished third in the NVL singles tournament. She reached the semifinals as a sophomore and lost in the final last year to Kempes.

“I really feel I can get back there to the finals. This being my last year, I would like the chance to play for an NVL championship again,” Mayne said. “I think as a team we are ready for the challenge. We have some tough teams coming up in Naugatuck, Watertown and St. Paul again, but we are ready.”

The Hawks will host Holy Cross on Friday and visit Naugatuck May 2.

This story has been updated from the version that appears in the April 28 edition to include results through April 27.