Woodland finds success with experimentation on the court

Woodland’s Josh Powanda returns a shot during a match with Naugatuck’s Chris Cook April 10 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — With a new format in Naugatuck Valley League boys tennis this season, the first few weeks have been an ongoing experiment for Woodland — and a successful one at that.

The Hawks cruised to 5-0 victories in their first four meets of the season before dropping a 3-2 decision to Naugatuck on April 10. Woodland used the same lineup in the new format — three singles and two doubles matches with no repeated players — for all five meets to help get the team’s top players some work where they wanted to play.

“Some of the guys decided early on that they want to focus on certain areas, some in singles and some in doubles,” Woodland coach Mike Magas said. “We’re trying to accommodate them individually, but also in the long run we’ll have to take a look at what’s best for the team. As the next week or two go by, we’ll make determinations about who should be in the right spots.”

There’s little doubt about the Hawks’ No. 1 singles player, Josh Powanda, and No. 1 doubles team, Nick Hudson and Devon Polletta, being in the right spots. Those players won their first five matches of the spring.

Powanda hung a double bagel on Kennedy’s Redjan Cipi during the Hawks’ 5-0 win over Kennedy on April 9 before similarly routing Naugy’s Chris Cook, 6-1, 6-1. Magas expects Powanda to be one of the top contenders for the NVL singles championship next month.

Hudson and Polletta, who primarily played singles last year, have formed a successful team atop Woodland’s doubles lineup. They shut out Kennedy’s Braedan Gorman and Anthony Rybczyk before cruising past Naugy’s Brandon Sampaio and Andres Maldonado, 6-1, 6-0.

Woodland’s Nos. 2 and 3 singles players, Dante Polletta and Austin Roberts, as well as the No. 2 doubles squad of Richie Weishner and Gabe Sousa, are off to 5-1 starts with their only defeats coming in tight matches against Naugatuck.

“We suffered our first loss to Naugy, but it was a close match from the beginning and went down to the end,” Magas said. “Everyone’s played pretty well.”

The Hawks improved to 5-1 with a 5-0 win over Watertown on Tuesday. Powanda, Polletta and Roberts earned singles wins. Watertown forfeited the two doubles matches.

Woodland’s Dante Polletta returns a shot during a match with Naugatuck’s Jared Montini April 10 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Despite the successful start, Magas targets one area in particular as having room for the Hawks to improve over the next few weeks.

“The biggest thing we want to work on is eliminating silly mistakes and errors,” he said. “A lot of times we shoot ourselves in the foot with true unforced errors. Sometimes a player makes a great shot and you’ll return it into the net just because of that shot, but when you have a ball in front of you that should be an easy shot, we’re knocking them into the net or hitting them off the court. We’re going to work on getting in our second serves and cutting down on unforced errors.”

The Hawks are set to visit Torrington on Wednesday and Wolcott on Thursday. Woodland will return home April 22 to face Holy Cross and gets a rematch with the Greyhounds on April 24.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version published in the April 18 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on matches played after press time.