BEACON FALLS — It wasn’t uncommon to see five freshmen on the court last season for the Woodland girls basketball team.
Now coach Jess Moffo and the Hawks hope that experience pays dividends this winter.
Woodland, which went 8-13 a season ago, returns almost its entire lineup as it looks to make a postseason run for the first time in years.
The lone loss to graduation was Hana Bojka, a do-it-all captain who helped a host of younger players mature enough to squeak out a playoff spot.
“Hana was the unsung hero,” Woodland coach Jess Moffo said. “She did the job on defense, rebounded the blocks and deflections — the little things people don’t recognize. She might not have been the leader in points, but she did the little things that don’t add up on a stat sheet. She helped out (younger sister) Andra a lot with ball screens and taking the ball up the court. We only lost one senior, but they’re big shoes to fill.”
The Hawks will look to replace Bojka in a number of ways. It’ll start with senior co-captains Jill Barbarito and Katie Sirowich. Barbarito was a key scorer last season and enters the season healthy following offseason foot surgery, and Sirowich missed last season due to a torn ACL.
Both will be expected to provide leadership, while Barbarito figures to be among the team’s leading scorers and lockdown defenders.
“I always have high expectations for her,” Moffo said of Barbarito. “She’s a great teammate and a great player. She’s coachable and will do anything I ask. Her role won’t change from what it’s been the last two years. She’s going to score, she’s going to assist, and she’s one of the best shot-blockers in the league. She’ll have to be more vocal as a senior leader, and she’s already proving that so far with the underclassmen.”
Barbarito and junior Ava DeLucia figure to be the only upperclassman starters at the beginning of the season. The other three spots will likely be filled by sophomores.
Andra Bojka, who started at point guard throughout her freshman campaign, will enter her second year as the floor general.
“That experience helped her a lot,” Moffo said. “I don’t think she’ll be as nervous handling game management. She can control it now. She had a great summer, so I think she’ll be good.”
Sophomore forwards Gabby Mastropietro and Kylie Bulinski should also start, with fellow sophomore Riley Kane seeing spot starts and plenty of minutes as the sixth player.
“They’re all going to have a lot of minutes,” Moffo said. “They did a great job last year.”
Key bench players should include sophomores Chelsea Donovan and Maddie Andrews and freshman Sam Sosnovich.
Moffo thinks the mix of experience on her team could lead to success like the 13-9 campaign in 2015-16. The Hawks are setting their sights even higher — perhaps hosting a state tournament game for the first time since the 2011 squad reached the Class M quarterfinals.
“We’re not satisfied with just making states — we want to make a run in states,” Moffo said. “This group is working hard and they want to be that team. I think we can be that team. We want to have a playoff game at home, win a playoff game at home, make NVLs, which we haven’t done the last two years. I think we can do that.”
Woodland will open the season Dec. 18 against Wolcott before visiting Kaynor Tech on Dec. 19. The Hawks’ final game before Christmas will be Dec. 23 vs. Watertown.
Correction: An earlier version of this article reported Woodland’s first game was Dec. 13 against Nonnewaug and the Hawks were scheduled to play Kaynor Tech on Dec. 29. The Nonnewaug game was a scrimmage.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the Wolcott game was postponed to Dec. 18 due to weather.