Hawks focused on playing their game

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

Woodland’s Jenna Mierek (6) takes a corner kick during a game against Holy Cross Sept. 25 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. -WILL LETOURNEAU

BEACON FALLS — Nobody in the Naugatuck Valley League came close to the Woodland girls soccer team during the first month of the season, but the Hawks still have plenty to prove as the second half of the regular season arrives.

Woodland raced out to a 6-0-1 start, including a perfect 6-0 mark in NVL play, through the end of September. The Hawks outscored league opponents, 36-2, during the month.

In a 9-0 win over Derby on Sept. 30, Sara Alessio and Delia Kotsaftis each scored twice, while Paige Letourneau, Michaela Gasparri, Nina Daponte, Jenna Mierek and Katy More all found the back of the net once.

Two days earlier, in an 8-0 win over Torrington, Letourneau, Kotsaftis, Mierek and April Bell netted two goals apiece, while Isabela Mejias only needed to make one save.

The Hawks’ biggest win came in a 3-1 decision over Holy Cross on Sept. 25. Alessio scored in each half, including the game-winner in the 54th minute, while Letourneau added an insurance goal. Mejias and Casey Mulligan combined to make 10 saves.

Aside from the top goal-scorers, Alessio and Letourneau, Woodland coach Cait Witham has been impressed with several players in the middle of the field.

“Delia is kind of quiet because she has a lot more assists than goals, but she controls the middle of the field,” Witham said. “Katy and Jenna as center backs do a great job of making sure our defense is organized.”

Witham is also pleased with the Hawks’ work ethic, although she admits the team’s play in September still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

“We’ve definitely been working hard. The girls have been trying to improve every game,” Witham said. “We can’t quite string together a complete 80 minutes. We are getting closer, but we’re still not there. We come out a little slow sometimes. In the second half, we play a lot closer to our standard of play. The problem is you can dig yourself a bit of a hole if you don’t play well in the first half, and we’re fortunate that it hasn’t happened to us yet.”

There are plenty of midseason tests on the Hawks’ schedule, which includes an Oct. 4 game vs. Naugatuck and an Oct. 6 meeting with Watertown. They’ll also get a rematch at Holy Cross on Oct. 8. A return visit to Naugatuck also looms Oct. 22.

“We just need to make sure that when we do play, we’re playing our standard of soccer and that we’re not changing based on the team,” Witham said. “We struggle when we’re trying to match other teams’ formations or intensity. If we just play our game, we will have a better chance of being successful.”