BY KYLE BRENNAN
The scorching hot summer temperatures make it seem like high school sports couldn’t be further away, but it’s never too late to reflect upon the exciting and successful school year in local sports before another one starts in just a month. Naugatuck and Woodland won championships and made impressions across the state during this past school year, but there’s only room for 10 achievements in this academic year-end list.
Shutout gives Woodland back-to-back girls soccer titles: A goal by Michaela Gasparri midway through the first half gave goalie Casey Mulligan all she needed, and the Hawks blanked Watertown, 1-0, to win their second consecutive NVL championship. Mulligan, a junior, won tournament MVP honors after shutouts in both the championship and semifinal win over Wolcott.
Hawks continue reign in NVL girls swimming: No other team came close to Woodland at the NVL girls swimming finals as the Hawks ran away from the field to win their fourth league title in the last six seasons. Ella Bernegger defended her diving championship, while Emme Starzman collected four gold medals — two individually and two relays. Starzman went on to win the 200-yard individual medley at the Class S meet, where Woodland finished as runner-up to set a new program-best.
Woodland reaches first Class M volleyball final in nine years: A diverse attack at the net and persistent back-row defense not only gave the Hawks their first NVL volleyball championship since 2015, but it also helped them make a run to the Class M final for the first time since they won it in 2013. Maille Ianniruberto won NVL tournament MVP honors after helping the Hawks sweep rival Seymour in the championship match, and Woodland reached the Class M final before falling to RHAM.
Naugy, Woodland make football playoffs: It was another successful season for the Greyhounds on the gridiron as they went 8-3 and reached the Class L quarterfinals, where they gave New Canaan all it could handle before falling to the Rams. Woodland, meanwhile, rebounded from a .500 season a year ago to finish 9-3 and reach the Class S semifinals, the Hawks’ deepest run since 2013. The Greyhounds, though, won bragging rights over their rivals by crushing Woodland, 41-0, to win the George Pinho Trophy again.
Naugy indoor track continues dominance: There is simply no stopping the Greyhounds on the track over the last couple of years. Naugy swept the NVL indoor track championships in January in no-doubt fashion. The ‘Hounds won five relays and a number of individual events, led by Shayne Hasipi’s double golds in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Woodland’s Alex Farr set a meet record in the 600 (1:25.33), while Naugy’s Lauren Kropo tied the meet record in the 300 (41.85). The foursome of Kropo, Lily Jason, Lauren Sonski and Divine Kabongo later won the 4×200 title in Class L.
Impossibly narrow margin at NVL boys swim finals: The odds of a swimming and diving championship being decided by just a half-point are impossibly small — that was, at least, until March when Woodland edged Oxford, 775-774.5, to pull an upset and win a second straight NVL championship. Woodland divers Matt Silva and Edgar Jorge both placed among the top 10 in the delayed springboard competition March 2 to help the Hawks rally.
Hawks cruise through NVL boys tennis ranks: Not only did Woodland rack up an undefeated record in claiming the league championship, but the Hawks dominated the individual tournaments, too. Kayo Niebrzydowski won the NVL singles title without dropping a set all season, and Nick Bshara and Brian O’Connell teamed up to win the league doubles crown.
Kropo’s record-breaking meet easy as 1, 2, 3: The fact that Naugatuck cruised to dual NVL outdoor track titles wasn’t a surprise. The meet’s breakout performer, however, defied even the highest expectations. Greyhounds freshman Lauren Kropo broke NVL championship meet records in three races. She toppled an 8-year-old record in the 100 (12.22), a 19-year-old mark in the 400 (57.49), and a 34-year-old milestone in the 200 (25.05). She broke the latter two records by more than a half-second each.
At long last, Hawks snag NVL baseball crown: No NVL baseball team had knocked on the door of a league championship over the past 15 years without success than Woodland. Finally, though, the Hawks broke through in a tournament compressed into four days by rainouts, ending with a 4-0 win over St. Paul for their first league title since 2007. Woodland’s defense came up clutch all tournament, including a diving grab by Max Martin to preserve a 3-2 semifinal win over Torrington and a team effort that stranded 12 St. Paul runners on base in the final.
Back-to-back state softball titles for Woodland: There was some disappointment for the Woodland softball team during the postseason — an upset loss to Oxford in the NVL finals followed by some sloppy play in the Class M quarterfinals and semifinals — but there was nothing but highs in the final game of the season. The Hawks dominated Sacred Heart Academy, 16-0, to win the state title for the second straight year. Sam Sosnovich again was the winning pitcher, spinning a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts.
BY KYLE BRENNAN