Looking back at the best from 2017

Kyle Brennan

Happy New Year, y’all. Before we all get too far into the whole “New Year, New Me” stuff — I will attempt to drive that bus again this year, likely to no avail — let’s take a look back on the top 10 local sports stories of 2017.

Bojka joins the club: There will always be something special in high school sports about reaching the 1,000-point mark for a basketball career, and Morina Bojka became the fifth player in Woodland history to hit that milestone. She sank a free throw Jan. 20 against Waterbury Career to achieve the feat and finished her high school career with 1,062 points. It was a unique accomplishment, too: 488 of those points came in her first two years at Chase Collegiate.

Seeger’s big year: One of the best all-around athletes we’ve seen in our area in recent times, Naugatuck’s Aren Seeger enjoyed a banner year in 2017. He started it off by breaking the Naugatuck Valley League indoor record in the 300-meter dash at the league championship meet in January, then finished second in the NVL and Class L in the outdoor 300 hurdles, and finished it off by drilling an NVL-championship winning 65-yard direct kick to stun Watertown in overtime. Not bad for the Louisville-bound senior.

Naugy hires Sollazzo: Whenever Naugatuck’s football coaching position opens up, it attracts some of the best candidates of any job in the state. That was the case again last winter after Craig Bruno resigned. It was impossible for Naugy to pass up Dave Sollazzo, who brought decades of big-time college coaching experience to the first head coaching gig of his career.

Year of the individual champs: There was no shortage of championship gold for individual athletes at Woodland and Naugatuck in 2017. Here’s the long list for Woodland: Riley Clark (NVL diving), Ally Mayne (NVL tennis), Dia Gawronski (two Class S and two NVL swimming golds), Brooke Pope (NVL swimming), Erika Michie (three NVL track golds), Jade Brennan (two NVL  track golds), Tom Smith (two NVL track golds), Craig Starkey (two NVL pole vault golds), Jordan Williams (NVL indoor track), Emilie Noreika (NVL outdoor pole vault) and Matt Luxeder (NVL indoor track). And here’s the Naugy bunch: Seeger (NVL indoor track), Brian Goggin (NVL swimming) and Erin Schofield (Class L and NVL javelin gold).

Woodland girls continue track dominance: Few sports programs in the entire NVL are on a current streak of dominance quite like the Woodland girls track program. The Hawks claimed a sixth straight NVL indoor track championship last winter and followed it up with a fifth straight NVL outdoor track title.

Pat Dean excels in South Korea: The Naugatuck native made the bold decision to continue his pro baseball career with the Kia Tigers in South Korea, and he made the most of his first year with a 9-7 record, a 4.14 ERA and 143 strikeouts to only 39 walks. Last month, he re-signed with the club on another one-year, $925,000 contract.

Naugy Dogs finally win Tri-State title: The Naugatuck Dogs have been one of the most consistently competitive teams in the Tri-State League in recent years, and they finally earned a championship to cap their success. The Dogs swept the Tri-Town Trojans in the best-of-three series in August, which was Naugy’s third appearance in the championship series in the last five years.

At last, an NVL title for Hawks swimmers: In his 14th season at the helm of the Woodland girls swimming program, Mike Magas finally got to experience an NVL championship. Led by a once-in-a-generation record-setter in Gawronski, the Hawks edged Seymour to win the league title.

First state final berth in 15 years: After years of underachieving as a high seed in the state tournament, the Naugatuck boys soccer team made an impressive run all the way to the Class LL championship match. Although the Greyhounds fell short in a 1-0 decision against Glastonbury, Naugy definitely restored its name as a preeminent soccer power — along with a fifth straight NVL title.

9-0 vs. 9-0: It had been 23 years since Naugatuck and Ansonia met on Thanksgiving with perfect records, but that’s exactly what happened in the 2017 holiday matchup. Naugy gave the Chargers their stiffest NVL test in years, keeping it close into the fourth quarter in a 46-28 defeat. The Greyhounds won the NVL Iron Division title and reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2014.