BEACON FALLS — After making three straight deep runs in the state tournament, the Woodland girls volleyball team is taking nothing for granted this season.
The Hawks made the state finals in 2012, won the states the next year and reached the semifinals last year. Getting back is usually the hard part.
The preseason has been filled with hard work. And the team’s captains are setting the tone.
“This year I believe in the preseason our team has been working very hard to not only be good enough but to be better than the rest,” said Carla Piccolo, the team’s setter. “We work on specifics that’ll improve each player and make the floor better.”
Success breeds success. Many on the team have experienced winning, and know what it takes to win.
“As a leader of this team, I will do my best to continue our great streak,” said Sam White, an outside hitter. “I expect to push myself and my team to excel. It helps a lot knowing the taste of victory already, because there is always that extra push to want that taste again, to be the best, to push yourself for your teammates before you, and to show the younger girls what a winning team looks like so that they work harder to become better and keep the streak alive.”
The Hawks, who finished 20-6 overall last season, plan to feature a double setter look this season. This look will provide a challenge for opponents and create flexibility for the Hawks.
“Other teams will be surprised and confused as to what is going on with our floor,” said Jenna Boncal, who can play setter or hit. “Our six-two will be challenging to keep up with as to who is setting and who is hitting and it is amazing to watch them try and figure it out.”
“I think our double setter floor will surprise our opponents, especially Carla Piccolo in the front row,” White said. “Seeing Carla set and hit in the same game is so great because we get to use both of her abilities — setting and hitting. I wouldn’t want to be on the other side of the net when Carla gets a perfect set.”
Perhaps the team’s biggest strength will be its defense, which continues to be a point of emphasis. Cameron Caswell, the team’s libero, has been impressed with the team’s efforts.
“The team’s biggest strength will most definitely be our defense,” Caswell said. “With the amount of drills our coaching staff have set up for our defense, it will be our best defensive year.”
Piccolo also likes what she sees on defense, adding the team has put in the time at practice.
“All during preseason we worked hard on our passing and not letting the ball touch the floor,” Piccolo said.
While defense is a priority, the team’s offense may also surprise teams.
“The most surprising thing about the 2015 Hawks is the fact that everyone on our floor can hit,” Caswell said. “Not only hit, but hit hard and find the floor on the other side of the court. You can really tell how hard this team has worked on offense in the offseason. Every girl on the floor has really found their power and beginning to slam the ball down. I am stoked to see how the NVL reacts to our team this year.”
While the team has enjoyed past success, nothing is guaranteed. The team’s captains have been pushing players.
“I encourage the team to push their limits and to show everyone and themselves what they are truly capable of doing,” Boncal said. “The last three seasons we set goals and reached those goals by pushing our limits and I want to push my teammates again to reach those goals again.”
The Hawks are scheduled to open the season Friday at 6 p.m. at Naugatuck. Woodland then travels to Nonnewaug on Tuesday.