BEACON FALLS — Winning teams learn to have a competitive edge that sets them apart from their opponents. The Woodland girls tennis team learned a lot about winning last season.
The Hawks compiled a 20-2 record and won their first NVL championship since 2008. The girls went on to make school history becoming the first team to reach the quarterfinals in the state tournament.
The Hawks come into this season facing a major challenge after graduating five seniors, including All-NVL players Hope Gavigan and Lauren Tompkins. Woodland is also in the process of a coaching transition as new head coach Kate Gavigan takes over for former head coach Jessica DeGennaro.
“We have some big shoes to fill, including myself,” said Gavigan, who served as assistant coach last season. “I went from being a supportive mother who helped out as an assistant coach to being the head coach and there certainly are challenges that lie ahead.”
One of the biggest challenges for the new coach is to pare down the 31 girls who came to tryouts. Before the Hawks even face the real competition of the NVL, they will have felt the heat of the battle in a competition to just make the team.
“That is going to be the hardest part for me,” Gavigan said. “Last year I was cheering these girls on as a parent, a mother and an assistant coach. Now I have to make some tough choices, and it’s not going to be easy.”
Woodland enters the season with strong leadership in All-NVL senior Erica Boccuzzi and senior Daphne Cianciolo leading the way as captains.
“Having an All-NVL player like Erica (Boccuzzi) back along with Daphne (Cianciolo) will help some of the younger girls to see what it takes to be competitive,” Gavigan said.
Junior Katie Rioux will team up with Boccuzzi to form the No. 1 doubles tandem.
Sophomore Allison Mayne will serve as the Hawks No. 1 singles player and junior Paige Gainey will fit into the mix as one of the four single players.
“Allison (Mayne) is a year-round player and trains throughout the winter, which makes her our go-to player to start the season,” Gavigan said. “Paige (Gainey) has put in a ton of training during the offseason and I expect her to be in the mix and give us a strong showing out on the court.”
Gavigan said many of the girls gained experience last season and saw what it takes to be a winner. She said there are spots still up for grabs and she expects that competition to give her Hawks an edge.
“There are a lot of spots still open and we are still early into the preseason,” she said. “There is a lot of competition going on for the final spots and that competitiveness will have us game-ready once the season starts.”
The Hawks will have a tough road to manage once the season gets started. Woodland opens at Torrington on April 8. The Hawks will host Naugatuck April 9 in a rematch of last year’s NVL finals before traveling to St. Paul April 10.