Hawks build strong foundation

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BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team entered the season armed with just one senior on the squad. The Hawks underwent a major reconstruction project and came within a few games of qualifying for the state tournament in the process.

That’s not exactly the way head coach Jess Moffo or assistant coach Alice Levinsky approached the season, as they believed the Hawks would achieve bigger and better things. But, anytime a team goes into a season with one senior and only a couple of players with varsity experience there will be some growing pains.

“I knew going into the season that we had some talented players,” Moffo said. “I always believe in my girls and their ability. But, in reality, we didn’t have a whole lot of experience out there and at times we struggled in key situations.”

The Hawks finished the season at 5-15, but left more than a few games out on the court. Woodland started out slow with a 1-5 mark after six games. That was followed by a streak of three wins in the next four games, and it appeared the Hawks turned the corner at 4-6 at midseason.

But it came undone down the stretch as the team began to utilize younger players on a more consistent basis. In the transition, Moffo began to build a strong foundation that her team will stand on for a few more seasons to come.

“We came into the season with Becky Hale as a four-year player and a senior captain,” Moffo said. “She was our go-to player. Carla Piccolo and Cameron Caswell had seen varsity time and after that it was a learning process.

“But we prepared for opponents and we were competitive. But turnovers in key situations became the difference in a lot of the games that got away from us. But the younger girls got a lot of experience. Our freshman alone scored 100 varsity points this year and that bodes well for the future of our program.”

Moffo said the Hawks have no reason to hang their heads. She pointed out that Hale, who scored 183 points this season, and Piccolo, who averaged 9.4 points per game, made All-Division honors.

Over the season, Moffo said, the team has developed into one that is going to be very competitive next year.

Woodland has Piccolo and two table-setters in the paint with sophomores Jen Triana and Jenna Pannone, who combined for over 120 points this season, returning. Caswell, who scored 80 points this season, has become a tenacious point guard.

Sophomore Maddie Hupprich has developed into a player who makes big plays in key situations. Junior Jill Chicano is a relentless rebounder giving the Hawks an advantage on the boards.

What will set Woodland apart is the development over the season by a group of five freshmen. Haley Andrews scored 44 points as a freshman guard with Erika Michie playing significant time in the paint. Camryn Johnson, Eliza Smith and Megan Sirowich also saw time on the varsity floor.

A solid foundation is in place for Woodland to make some noise next season and the excitement is already building.

“I already can’t wait for next season,” said Moffo. “We have a real special group of girls coming back and this time we have the experience to go with it.”