Hawks crave top spot

Woodland boys soccer captains, from left, Jack LaPerriere, Senol Music and Ryan Swanson will lead the Hawks this season. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys soccer team is tired of coming up short, and the Hawks want to get back on top for the first time in six years.

After finishing as a Naugatuck Valley League semifinalist last season and a finalist the year before, Woodland’s top returning players want to get right back to where they’ve been — and do a little bit better this fall.

“(We want) to get back where we were last year, get back to the finals like we did two years ago, and to win it,” senior co-captain Jack LaPerriere said. “The key is working hard as a team all around, on the field and at practice.”

Woodland fell to Oxford in last year’s NVL semifinals and lost to Naugatuck in the 2015 NVL final. The Hawks won their only league championship in 2011.

While that may be the goal for the upperclassmen, they know they have plenty to work on before they get to that point. Senol Music and Christian Poirier are poised to make up one of the better tandems up front in the league, and they will lead a passing attack that the Hawks think could be their best attribute.

“I think the strength of the team is in our passing,” said Music, a senior co-captain. “I don’t think we have the speed to extend as much with through-balls. I think we’re going to have to do more team passing and sending it out wide.”

Woodland is also working on its transition game.

“The biggest thing I think we’ve learned is about shifting from defense to offense, and then when we turn over the ball, shifting from offense to defense,” said junior co-captain Ryan Swanson. “We can attack or defend better.”

Tony Moutinho, who is entering his 17th season as Woodland’s only boys soccer coach, is focused on developing the back end of the Hawks’ formation, which was ravaged by graduation. The biggest loss may have been four-year starting goalkeeper A.J. Oliveira, who was an All-NVL selection last fall.

“We lost a lot of experience in the back,” Moutinho said. “We lost our whole defense and our keeper. But we have a nice combination of young players and players with experience from last season.”

Moutinho is optimistic that senior Andrew Spofford will pick up the slack between the pipes. The coach also said he hopes for Music and Poirier to “carry the team moving forward,” while a 35-man roster gives Moutinho plenty of options.

“We have a lot of depth this year,” Moutinho said. “I’ll be able to sub a lot. It’s one of the biggest teams I’ve ever had, so we should only get better as the season goes on.”

Moutinho said the team’s key will be finishing its scoring opportunities, as it may take a little while for the young defense to get up to speed.

“Last year, we won games 1-0, 2-0, and that’s because we had a good keeper,” Moutinho said. “This year, (Spofford is) inexperienced. Hopefully, this year we’ll do more scoring.”

The Hawks will open the season at home Sept. 8 against Seymour.