BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys tennis team has played so well this season that the Hawks have had to readjust their goals several times to keep pace with their unprecedented level of success.
“The first goal was to get enough wins to get into the state tournament as a team,” third-year coach Jim Amato said. “Once we got there, it was to get the best record in Woodland history, which was to win 10 games. From there, since we had a shot at it, we decided to take a stab at the NVL championship. Then we accomplished that and had two games left, so we wanted to finish the season undefeated.”
Missions accomplished. The Hawks finished their regular season 19-0, almost doubling the previous best win total in program history. It’s an amazing turnaround considering the fact that Woodland was coming off a pair of 8-10 seasons in which the team failed to qualify for state tournament play.
Amato said that the return of the team’s top player, Mike Krakowski, helped considerably especially since he came back as a much stronger player this season.
“I have definitely seen Mike developing a lot more nuance to his game,” Amato said. “He was always fleet afoot and would track balls down. But now in addition to his speed he’s developed a strong shot, too, and he has definitely used it to dictate tempo this year.”
Krakowski finished the regular season 16-3 as Woodland’s No. 1 player. His losses came to Pat Vincente of Crosby, John Ramirez of Wolcott and Steve Consolini of Torrington, but he also beat all three of them.
Amato said the NVL’s best player will be determined by how well each plays during the league’s tournament, which begins Thursday at Woodland with play-ins, the first round and quarterfinals. The semifinal and championship rounds will be played at Wolcott on Friday.
Woodland has already proven itself to be the best team in the NVL this season. Amato said a big reason for that was the great offseason improvements made by a corps of sophomores. The team’s No. 2 (Pat Dietz), No. 3 (Matt Murphy), No. 4 (Kyle Beynor) and No. 5 (Stephen Pec) singles players are all sophomores while the No. 6 player, Jimmy Tompkins, is a junior.
“Our sophomore corps came back focused on the mission of making it to states,” Amato said. “Those kids all really improved their level of play from their freshman year. They played a big role in helping us achieve of our goal of making it to states, and everything else we have gotten has just been icing on the cake.”
Beynor is the one player who is undefeated as an individual this season as he is 19-0 playing both No. 4 and No. 5 singles. Pec is 18-1. Amato said that this season his No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 players, with Nick Boccuzzi getting into the mix in the No. 6 spot, combined to go 56-1.
That depth has served the team very well, but whether or not it can carry the team deep into the state tournament remains to be seen. Amato said Krakowski has a very good chance to get a solid seed and move right through the early rounds of the tournament. Last year he won a play-in round match and then lost early in the tournament.
The team as a whole may be too inexperienced against the type of quality competition it will face in the tournament. The Hawks did lose a preseason scrimmage, 11-1, to a very talented Pomperaug team. But Amato said the team reacted very well to that humbling rout and gained a lot inspiration and focus as a result.
So much so, in fact, that the team has gone undefeated since in matches that actually counted on its record. He’s not surprised the Hawks are undefeated even if their initial goal wasn’t close to that.
“As a coach that is what you aim for,” Amato said. “As a team, that is what they planned on, and as a program that is what we attained.”