Experience breeds confidence for Hawks   

BEACON FALLS — There are plenty of differences between January 2019 and January 2020 for the Woodland girls basketball team. This year’s 5-2 record — compared to 1-6 last season — is one of them. The ages of the players on the floor is another.

“Experience is huge,” Woodland coach Jess Moffo said. “Last year, by the end of the year, we were starting three freshmen. They have a little bit of confidence now, knowing that they made the state tournament last year. They’re hungry, they work, they come in every day and do their jobs, and they’re having fun doing it. When we work on something in practice and we execute it in a game, you can see the excitement on their faces. Every day, we’re getting better and better.”

Senior co-captain Jill Barbarito agrees and feels as though the Hawks have played more calmly so far this season.

“Everyone having a year of experience has definitely been a big factor,” Barbarito said. “Last year we were a bit frantic when all the freshmen, now sophomores, got into the game. Now they know their way around and they’re not as panicked. You can say you’ve been there. When you go into the game, you’re not thinking, ‘Oh, my God, this is the first time I’ve been in a game against them.’ Now, you’re not freaking out and we can just go out there and play basketball.”

Woodland started this season 4-0 before running into arguably the Naugatuck Valley League’s two best teams, Holy Cross and St. Paul, in the same week. Those lopsided road defeats (75-40 and 63-26) served as a reset for the Hawks.

“That was good for us to play them in the same week,” Barbarito said. “We needed to be humbled a little bit. The majority of the teams in the league are very good and can win, and I think we needed to see that early in the season. That’s going to shape the way the rest of the season’s going to go. We want to make the NVL tournament, and it’s going to take a lot to get there.”

“It sucks playing the top two teams in the league in the same week, but it also shows you how much work it takes to be there,” Moffo added. “The work and dedication has to be at another level.”

The Hawks rebounded Jan. 7 with a 57-27 win over Waterbury Career. Andra Bojka scored a game-high 16 points to lead Woodland, while Kylie Bulinski added 15, Gabby Mastropietro tacked on seven and Barbarito tossed in six.

“Kylie Bulinski has been doing a hell of a job,” Moffo said. “She’s scoring around the basket, rebounding, playing defense. She’s being a leader as a sophomore. Gabby Mastropietro has really blossomed. Last year, she would force a lot of times with unnecessary decisions, and now she’s one of our best passers. She’s a triple-threat player. Andra is starting to get her confidence back and is running the floor like she did last year.”

Woodland is set to begin a three-game stretch in NVL Copper Division play Friday at home against Ansonia. The Hawks are scheduled to host Oxford on Monday and visit Seymour on Wednesday.