Hawks look to build confidence down homestretch

Woodland’s Alanna Carasone returns a shot during a doubles match with her partner Mia Piccolo against Ansonia April 24 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Quickly approaching the end of the regular season, Woodland girls tennis coach Jess DeGennaro wants her Hawks to gain some confidence on the court.

Woodland fell to 7-5 on the season with a 4-3 loss to Watertown on April 25 and a 6-1 loss to St. Paul Monday. Although four of the Hawks’ five defeats have come in tight meets, DeGennaro thinks some of the outcomes could have been different with a little more tenacity and match experience.

“We’re 11 matches in — we can’t be nervous anymore,” DeGennaro said before the St. Paul match. “You have to want the ball to come to you.”

Woodland undoubtedly has some players who fit that mold. The No. 1 doubles team of Alanna Carasone and Mia Piccolo have rolled through Naugatuck Valley League competition thus far, cruising to an 8-1 victory in the only blowout match of the meet with Watertown and picking up the only win, 8-2, versus St. Paul.

DeGennaro says one attribute that makes the 2018 NVL doubles runners-up successful is their ability to fight for points and make adjustments during matches.

“Alanna and Mia were runners-up last year and have that drive to win every point, strategize after every point,” DeGennaro said. “Mia and Alanna realize that it’s not over. They can change their game plan. They go back to the basics.”

“In the preseason, I knew we had talent, but a lot of them don’t have the experience when it comes to matches,” DeGennaro also noted. “That’s what’s a little frustrating because I have a little bit of both — some of the girls know what it’s like to be in second place and some are just happy to be in the lineup.”

DeGennaro has also been pleased with the play of several veteran singles players. Senior Rachel Poulos, who has spent all season at No. 1 singles, has been competitive in almost all of her matches at the top of the lineup, including an 8-6 defeat against the Indians’ Sarah Cipriano.

“We throw her against the best of the best,” DeGennaro said. “She went from No. 4 to No. 1, so it was a big transition. If she were in a different position, she’d probably be undefeated right now. She’s learning a lot and growing. I wish she had another season.”

Woodland’s Rachel Poulos charges the net to try and return a shot during a match against Ansonia April 24 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

At No. 2 singles, senior Kaitlyn Crosby picked up an 8-5 win over Watertown’s Abbey Holley.

“She’s had a few matches where she comes out on top with her patience and athleticism,” DeGennaro noted.

No. 3 singles player Ella Parker also earned an 8-6 victory against the Indians’ Alba Xhema.

With the NVL team tournament looming in the middle of May, the Hawks will have their work cut out for them as they’ll likely see a few of the teams who beat them the first time around — Wolcott, Sacred Heart, Naugatuck, and Watertown — if they want to contend for the league title.

“The league is strong, so it’s going to be tough,” DeGennaro said. “The top teams have a lot of experienced players. But who knows, we have a couple of weeks to prepare for the tournament.”

Woodland is home to face Kennedy on Friday. The Hawks will finish the regular season next week at Seymour on Monday and against Crosby on Wednesday.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the version in the May 2 edition of the Citizen’s News to include information on a match played after press time.