Hawks banged up but determined

Woodland’s Ally Mayne watches her shot during a match against Ansonia’s Jessica Vives Monday at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Woodland won the match, 7-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls tennis team has been down a road marred by injuries and other difficulties this season, but the Hawks head into the NVL tournament determined as ever.

Woodland played in the NVL finals three years running and won the title in 2014 before that streak came to an end last year when the Hawks were knocked out in the quarterfinals by Naugatuck.

Going into this season, Woodland had high hopes of being one of the final two teams standing in the tournament. They have battled through adversity and ended the regular season this week with wins over Ansonia and Seymour and a loss to undefeated Watertown to finish 11-4.

With the NVL tournament in sight, the Hawks received some bad news recently when No. 2 singles player Amanda Doughney was lost for the remainder of the season due to an injury.

“Obviously losing Amanda is a big loss for the team,” Woodland head coach Kate Gavigan said. “She has been a tremendous influence and has had a great season. But that has been something we have been dealing with this season and adversity brings out the best in you.”

The NVL quarterfinals and semifinals are scheduled for May 15 and May 17, respectively, on the higher seed’s court. The final is set for May 19 at 3 p.m. at Woodland with a rain date of May 20. Seedings weren’t announced as of this post.

As Woodland prepares for the tournament, Gavigan has confidence that her players will step up as they have all season.

“We have had players stepping up all year and going forward we will need to continue to have players step up,” she said. “I’m confident with Ally Mayne at number one singles, and we have two solid doubles teams. That’s three of the four you need to win, and in the tournament anything can happen.

“Playing on our home court I feel is an advantage. The girls are comfortable here. Arianna Sherwood will move up to number two and Morgan Stockheimer continues to work hard improving her game.”

Mayne is the Hawks’ No. 1 at 12-2 on the season and has experience playing on the biggest stage. She played in the semis and the finals of the individual tournament the last two seasons.

Doughney at 9-3 on the season would have been a fearless competitor, but Sherwood is back in the lineup after returning from injury and Gavigan said she is 100 percent.

Sherwood was the No. 3 singles player to start the season and was a solid performer until an injury sent her to the sidelines. Since her return to the lineup, she has compiled an encouraging 4-3 mark.

Stockheimer has become a solid player in the rotation at the third seed and has found success since moving over from doubles. Kaitlyn Crosby, Carly Erickson and Rachel Poulos are all options for the No. 4 spot but can also find their way into the No. 3 doubles spot.

“As a team I think we are a lot stronger mentally having gone through these adversities and we are up for the challenge,” Gavigan said.

The strength of the Hawks is in the doubles potion of most matches. Woodland is armed with a tandem that has been playing together for four years in Angelina Padilla and Alyssa Varesio, who are at 11-3 on the season.

One of the surprises this season has been the development of the No. 2 doubles team of Alanna Carasone and Mia Piccolo, who are 10-3.

Gavigan is still moving some pieces around in the lineup with the tournament days away, but she said the team is determined and knows anything is possible in tournament play.

“We know the only way we are getting to the finals is going through either Naugatuck or St. Paul,” Gavigan said. “But anything can happen in these tournaments, and the last time we faced Naugatuck there were several tiebreakers and you always come out of those a little smarter.

“Sometimes playing as the underdog works to your advantage. We are still determined as ever and we are going to give it our best shot.”