Hawks beat Hounds, win NVL girls’ tennis title

Woodland's Stephanie Badale makes a backhand return against Naugatuck's Meghan Toth during the NVL team final Monday. Badale beat Toth, 8-5, and the Hawks topped the Hounds, 5-2, to win their second league title in three years.

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls’ tennis team won its second Naugatuck Valley League championship in three years—and the league’s first-ever team tournament—Monday by defeating the upstart Naugatuck Greyhounds, 5-2.

The Hawks (19-1) reversed an April 27, 5-2 defeat against the Hounds (18-3), led by No. 1 singles player Stephanie Badale, who topped Naugy ace Meghan Toth, 8-5. Down a break, 4-5, to an opponent who has won each of their last two meetings, Badale rallied to claim the final five games of the match.

“[Toth] has a different playing style than most girls in high school have,” Badale said. “She likes to be very consistent, and she’s like a backboard—no matter what you hit, she hits it back.

“I definitely changed how I play. Usually, I try to hit straight winners, but today, I kind of mixed up a bit, making sure to stay consistent, moving her from long lobs to short balls, making her run around the court, trying to get her to get tired, and then eventually I’d be able to start hitting hard again, once she got tired.”

Badale’s victory gave the Black and Gold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven match. No. 3 singles player Lauren Tremaglio provided the clincher just minutes later, when she won a back-and-forth contest with Miranda Jang, 8-6.

With Badale and No. 2 singles player Megan Wester, the NVL’s reigning individual silver and bronze medalists, respectively, returning this spring, the Hawks were preseason favorites. But they were without the head coach, Jessica DeGennaro, on maternity leave this school year, who has guided them to so much recent success.

Badale made Toth run all over the court, as on this forehand return, in their match at No. 1 singles.

After Woodland fulfilled its potential Wednesday evening, Athletic Director Brian Fell praised DeGennaro’s replacement, Mike Magas, for maintaining the team’s high level of play this season.

“Mike filled in seamlessly,” Fell said. “We knew we’d be strong with who we had coming back, but he’s really made the switch without missing a beat.”

Woodland also got wins from Brooke Dragon, 8-4, over Kaitlyn Carter; Jill Pagoni and Sam Angeloszek, 8-6, over Kaitlyn Dana and Courtney Quarles; and Nicole Nelson and Amanda Olivera, 9-7, over Katie Bottinick and Elicia Young.

The Garnet and Grey’s victories came from Sarah Yacavone, 8-6, over Megan Wester; and Danielle Charette and Rebeka Mitchell, 8-3, over Angela Vallillo and Avery Gartman.

First-year Naugatuck coach Jodie Ruccio acknowledged her squad’s disappointment but called the loss “one small setback,” noting NHS’ season is not over.

“They have done an outstanding job,” Ruccio said of her players. “The girls have pushed through some adversity … and there’s no hanging our heads.

“There’s still a lot of tennis left.”

The NVL’s singles and doubles tournaments begin Tuesday, with state tournament play to follow next week.