Hawks take step forward this season

Woodland’s Josh Powanda returns a shot during a match against Wolcott’s Matt Spina in the NVL boys singles tennis tournament semifinals May 24 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Powanda, who lost to Spina, earned All-NVL honors as a sophomore. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Going into the season, Woodland boys tennis head coach Charlie Ostrander had a few modest goals for his young group of Hawks — win five or six matches and focus on getting the team ready for the next couple of seasons.

That’s all the coach could hope for with a roster with nine sophomores, one freshman and one senior. Woodland exceeded all expectations going 7-8 on the season.

“Just to put things in perspective we lost two matches to Wolcott, Torrington and Naugatuck — the top three teams in the league,” Ostrander said. “Then we went 7-2 against the rest of the league.

“The progress we made since day one until the end of the season showed the determination of these kids. Our number one, Josh Powanda, is only the second sophomore at Woodland to ever make All-NVL honors.”

Powanda went 9-6 on the season, advanced to the semifinals of the NVL boys individual tournament and represented the Hawks at the Class S tournament. He fell in the first round of the state tournament on Saturday to Granby Memorial’s Owen Harter, 6-1, 6-3.

Nick Hudson, another sophomore, made the jump from the No. 6 singles spot last year to the Hawks’ No. 2 singles player.

“Nick started out slow at 1-6 on the season and finished 5-2 in the second half,” Ostrander said. “Another sophomore, Rich Weishner, was our number seven last year and went to number three this year earning five wins.”

Sophomores Jeff Varesio and Gabe Sousa were also in the singles rotation along with freshman Dante Polletta.

The Hawks used a variety of combinations in the doubles portion of matches, which allowed everyone on the roster varsity time on the court to continue the development of the team.

Woodland will graduate just one senior, James Nelson, and will return their entire starting lineup. Junior Sebastian Wojcik and sophomores Tim Mendes and Greg Aldrich will look take on larger roles next season.

“At one time or another every player got to play in matches,” Ostrander said. “That is the only way we can develop the skills needed to be successful. Having pretty much the entire team coming back has really raised the bar for next season.

“I’m expecting us to be in the top three or four in the league. Wolcott has been undefeated the last three years and they will lose a few players. Torrington will lose a player or two, and Naugatuck will lose a couple. That should put us in the position to be competitive and put us right up there in the top three or four in the league. I’m looking forward to seeing the progress continue to develop for Woodland tennis.”