Woodland picks up pair of wins, ties to start year

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BEACON FALLS — After a hectic preseason and a pair of early-season ties, Woodland girls soccer coach Cait Witham provided an unenthusiastic review of the first week and a half of the Hawks’ fall campaign.

“Average,” Witham said.

Woodland emerged from the first fortnight of the season with a 2-0-2 mark with lopsided wins over Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech and St. Paul and ties against Brookfield and Wolcott.

Some of the early sluggishness might be a hangover from a difficult preseason in which oppressive weather conditions forced the Hawks to miss scrimmage and practice time.

“The preseason was tough because a lot of the scrimmages we expected to have were affected by the weather,” Witham said. “I wasn’t able to get as many looks at them as a whole as I would have liked.”

Woodland settled for a 1-1 tie against Wolcott on Sept. 13 in a game where the Hawks’ only goal came from the Eagles.

“I’m realizing that collectively we have a lot of work to do as a group,” Witham said.

There have been bright spots, though. The debut of sophomore Aries Bell has been fantastic as she tallied a four-goal performance in an 8-1 win over St. Paul and two more in a 10-0 win over Sacred Heart-Kaynor Tech. Bell played academy soccer last year but is emerging as Woodland’s top scoring threat after joining the school club. She tallied the assist on the own goal against Wolcott.

“We played really good as a group,” Bell told the Republican-American after the tie against the Eagles. “There is still stuff we can improve on. We played better in the second half, connected a little more, but it was still not enough.”

Karly Laliberte, Julia Casimiro, Juliana Villano, Jill Barbarito, Molly Hussey, Julia Accetura, Madison Lisowski and Olivia Kotsaftis have also found the back of the net. Senior goalkeeper Alanna Carasone made seven stops in the two wins and nine to preserve the tie against Wolcott.

“We have a lot of talent on the team, we have a lot of new players, and we have nine seniors,” Carasone told the Rep-Am after the Wolcott tie. “We definitely have experience. I think we’ll be good this year.”

Witham said the main focus moving forward will be controlling the pace of place better, and that improvement needs to start with the team’s veteran players.

“Possession and playing to feet — both of those need to get better,” Witham said. “We have a group of seniors who have played together for a very long period of time, and I think now they need to embrace the fact that they’re the upperclassmen. We haven’t gotten them to buy into that just yet.”

The Hawks are set to face Ansonia on Monday and Holy Cross on Wednesday before hosting rival Naugatuck on Friday afternoon.