Best of 2011-12 high school sports: Top 10 stories

Adam Baz and the Woodland boys soccer team won its first ever NVL title last fall. –RA ARCHIVE

We’re closing in on a month of summer vacation down for the local kids (sorry to remind you), but before we hit that 30-day mark, we have to finish looking back at the best of the best from last school year’s sports.

In the last of a three-part series, we’ll review the top 10 stories of the year. Naugatuck and Woodland were both involved in plenty of championship hunts and exciting moments, so we picked our top 10 and listed them in no particular order.

We hope you enjoyed our three-part series of the best in 2011-12 local high school sports, and we’re only about two months away from the start of a new sports year.

Top 10 Stories

Woodland boys soccer wins first NVL title: Most of the first 10 years for the Woodland boys soccer program weren’t easy, with losing records and postseason disappointments. But everything changed in 2011, when the Hawks went undefeated in the Naugatuck Valley League and captured their first league title in a thrilling, 2-1 championship win over Watertown. Woodland won its second straight Brass Division title and finished the regular season 18-0-1.

Naugatuck High renovation plan passed: A few years and about $81 million are the only things that stand between now and one of the top high school athletic facilities in the state. Naugatuck voters passed a referendum in a landslide for the high school renovation. Among the changes affecting the athletic department include new turf, baseball and softball fields, a renovated gym and pool, and a new weight room, dance studio, and locker rooms.

Woodland volleyball doesn’t lose a five-setter: For the first time in school history, the Woodland spikers enjoyed a perfect, 18-0 regular season. One of the chief reasons behind the undefeated season was the team’s record in five-set matches. The Hawks were an astounding 6-0 in five-setters, all coming during the regular season. Woodland won the Brass Division title and reached the Class M quarterfinals for the second time in program history.

Local football teams struggle in Copper: Since Copper Division play started in 2007, the road to a division championship has gone through Woodland and Naugatuck more often than not. But that wasn’t the case in 2011, when Holy Cross and Torrington emerged as the top two teams in the Copper. Both teams beat the locals — although not without some fight — and relegated Woodland and Naugatuck to the middle of the pack. The Hawks beat the Greyhounds in Week 7.

Naugy girls basketball rallies after Ruccio’s passing: The untimely passing of Josh Ruccio, husband of Naugatuck girls basketball coach Jodie Ruccio, was a tough blow for the entire program. But the Greyhounds, led by Lauren Piroscafo and Steph Lima, rallied around their coach, winning five of their last seven regular-season games and pulling a thrilling upset over Watertown in the NVL quarterfinals.

Resurgences of Naugatuck boys basketball, tennis: The last few years hadn’t been too kind to Naugy’s boys basketball and boys tennis squads, but that all changed last season. Mike Wilson led an athletic group to a winning regular season on the hardwood while head coaching duo of Brian Mariano and Tony Loomis helped the ‘Hounds win the Copper Division with a 14-4 record, losing only to NVL finalists Woodland and Wolcott.

Woodland track’s incredible year: The NVL just couldn’t seem to keep last year’s track championships away from Back Rimmon Road. The boys team didn’t lose to a league squad all year, going undefeated during the outdoor season and winning both the outdoor and indoor titles, while the girls lost just once during the outdoor season and captured the indoor championship. Both teams were victorious at the league’s championship meets in both January and May.

Marucci hurls back-to-back no-hitters: Splendid pitching seemingly has been a staple at Naugatuck for years, and Alexa Marucci helped that tradition along in 2012. The third-year starter enjoyed her best season in Garnet and Grey, leading Naugy to the NVL semifinals and Class LL state tournament second round. Her best span of the season came during a stretch in which she hurled two straight no-hitters and allowed just one combined hit in three games.

Woodland boys tennis romps through NVL again: It’s been more than two years since the Hawks lost in league play, and that streak might not be ending anytime soon. Led by NVL singles champ Kyle Beynor and doubles champs Jimmy Tompkins and Steve Pec, Woodland went 17-1 during the regular season, losing only to Berkshire League champion Lewis Mills. To boot, Beynor and Tompkins-Pec both reached the Class S third rounds.

Woodland boys 4-by-400 relay goes All-New England: Relays have long been the strength of the Hawks’ rich track program, but never has Woodland featured a stronger foursome than last year’s 4-by-400-meter group. Eric Dietz, Jon Alarcon, Tim Madormo, and Nick LaPerriere set the school record, broke the Class M record, won both the NVL and Class M titles, and eventually earned All-New England honors with a top-five finish at the regional meet.