BEACON FALLS — Never in Jess Moffo’s coaching career has she placed four freshmen on the varsity basketball court.
But that’s exactly what the Woodland girls coach did to start the second half of the Hawks’ 42-33 loss to Waterbury Career on Jan. 2 as she tries to find lineups that work best and get her talented underclassmen more experience.
“They’re starting to get more and more minutes as the season goes on,” Moffo said. “I’m trying to change lineups to see what works the best. They’re fearless and play hard. They just need to adjust to the speed of play. It’s going to help them for the next three years.”
Andra Bojka, Riley Kane and Kylie Bulinski have seen the most varsity playing time among Woodland’s 12-member freshman class. Kane led the rookies with six points against WCA.
Moffo said her goal is to get all the varsity-ready freshmen to start a game this season. She also faces the dilemma of how much to throw those rookies to the wolves in games against championship contenders like Holy Cross, St. Paul and Watertown.
“With the better teams that are up in your face and are very athletic and skilled, I don’t want to put them in situations where it impairs what they’ve been doing,” Moffo said. “I try to mix them in at the right times. When I think they might be overwhelmed, I try to stay with the upperclassmen. The upperclassmen are doing well, too.”
Co-captains Jill Barbarito and Hana Bojka have been the steadying forces. Bojka, a senior, scored a season-high 11 points to lead the Hawks against WCA after Moffo asked her to step up her offensive game.
“She brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the floor and everyone feeds off that,” Moffo said. “When she plays with that excitement, we play better as a team. I called her out the other day and told her she needed to be more of an offensive threat, and the last couple of games she’s done that. That takes pressure off Jill and Andra. If we can have three or four legitimate scoring threats, we’ll be in good shape.”
Moffo expected the team’s growing pains this season with a lineup dominated by underclassmen. That didn’t stop her disappointment in the team’s effort against Waterbury Career, which dropped the Hawks’ record to 1-4 after nearly a two-week layoff.
“It was a disappointing loss,” Moffo said. “We didn’t play the style that we wanted to play. We need to outwork the opponent, and if we do that, we can win games. Our shots weren’t falling and the team effort was down, and that affected us. We ended up losing to a team we could have beaten. We let one get away.”
Woodland got back on track with a 41-38 overtime win over Ansonia Jan. 4 as the Hawks began their first rotation of divisional play in the Naugatuck Valley League Copper Division.
Gabby Mastropietro led Woodland with 10 points. Hana Bojka had nine points, and Barbarito tacked on eight.
The Hawks will visit Oxford on Tuesday before hosting Seymour on Thursday. Woodland will also host Kennedy on Jan. 14.
“We have three division games coming up with a chance to get some wins,” Moffo said before the Ansonia game. “This year is so spread out this year that any team on any given night can win.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated from the version published in the Jan. 10 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on games played after press time.