Hawks, ‘Hounds clash in hard-fought match

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Naugatuck’s Hannah Kim hits a backhand Monday afternoon during her No. 1 singles match with Woodland’s Julia Lawton in Beacon Falls. Lawton came away with an 8-5 win and the Hawks won the match, 6-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Naugatuck’s Hannah Kim hits a backhand Monday afternoon during her No. 1 singles match with Woodland’s Julia Lawton in Beacon Falls. Lawton came away with an 8-5 win and the Hawks won the match, 6-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls tennis team came away with a 6-1 win over Naugatuck on Monday but the match was a lot closer than the final margin would suggest.

One hour into the contest, the single matches were still on court. The Hawks (7-0) prevailed in three of those four matches but Naugatuck (7-3) made sure Woodland knew it was in a battle.

In the No. 1 match, the Hawks’ Julia Lawton came away with an 8-5 win over Hannah Kim. In the No. 2 match, Rachel Mariano squeaked out an 8-6 win over Kayla Gallant to put the Hawks up by a 2-0 margin.

Mikaela Santo fought her way through a 9-7 win over Lauren Tompkins to give Naugatuck its only victory of the afternoon.

Woodland took a 3-1 advantage into the doubles portion of the match after No. 4 Salma Shitia escaped with an 8-5 win over Sarah Cook. The hard-fought victories were indicative of Naugatuck’s competitiveness, according to Hawks coach Jess DeGennaro.

“Naugatuck may not be the strongest team we’ve faced this year but they are very well conditioned and they just don’t give up, as indicated by the scores of the matches,” DeGennaro said.

Woodland’s four singles players started last year, and DeGennaro said the experience is paying off.

“We came into the season returning our whole lineup from last year,” DeGennaro said. “We are strong and experienced one through 10 and we have some depth. We just have a lot of girls on the team that are talented and it makes our practices that much more competitive. “I think the biggest difference between this year and last year is the girls have goals to get better and go farther than they did last year.”

After struggling to get past Naugatuck in the singles portion of the match, Woodland took no chances in doubles to clinch the victory. Liz Martin and Hope Gavigan got it started with a convincing 8-2 win over Kayla Rotatori and Martina Niebrzdowski.

Woodland’s Julia Lawton returns a shot Monday afternoon during her match with Naugatuck’s Hannah Kim in Beacon Falls. Lawton came away with an 8-5 win and the Hawks won the match, 6-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Julia Lawton returns a shot Monday afternoon during her match with Naugatuck’s Hannah Kim in Beacon Falls. Lawton came away with an 8-5 win and the Hawks won the match, 6-1. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Emily Rioux and Ayah Galal made quick work of Chelsea Iglesias and Edesiri Igbuya, winning by an 8-1 margin. The final doubles match went to Woodland with the duo of Jesse Erickson and Erica Boccuzzi shutting down Liz Perez and Tremlett, 8-0.

The loss was Naugatuck’s second in a row after winning seven of eight to start the year.

“I’m very pleased at where we are record-wise,” Naugatuck coach Jose Sendra said. “I thought we might struggle a bit this year but to be at seven wins I’m happy with our progress as a team. The girls have stepped up big time. I was a little apprehensive coming in to this match. Woodland is always a tough team. I’m looking at this match as a measuring stick to see where we are and where we need to go from here.”

The Greyhounds fell to 7-4 with a 6-1 loss to Watertown on Wednesday. Naugatuck will host Crosby on Friday before visiting St. Paul on Monday.

Woodland remained unbeaten (8-0) by topping previously undefeated Holy Cross on Wednesday, 5-2. The Hawks will hit the road Monday to play Kennedy.

DeGennaro thinks the Hawks have a chance at an NVL championship with their strong team dynamic.

“I’m not looking to win a championship with a team that is pulling in different directions,” DeGennaro said. “If the team pulls together, is having fun and builds camaraderie without any drama that’s what it’s all about. If I can instill team chemistry and a love for tennis then I have done my job. Getting along and working together as a team is a lesson they can take with them the rest of their life. That’s what it’s all about.”