Hawks rebound from slow start

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BEACON FALLS — Woodland High girls volleyball coach Jim Amato said he doesn’t remember a three-match losing streak in his previous 10 seasons leading the Hawks. But that’s exactly how his inexperienced team started off this fall.

After that 0-3 start, though, Woodland has rebounded to win three of its last four. The Hawks’ latest win came in a 3-0 sweep of Waterbury Career on Tuesday.

Steph Krebbs, a junior who is the only player with substantial varsity experience from last season, led the way against the Spartans with 14 kills, four blocks and an ace. Alyssa Lukeski added nine kills and two aces, while Fatima Khalid facilitated with 26 assists and three aces.

Woodland (3-4) has just one senior on the roster in Julia Swiatek. As Amato expected with his young team, winning tight matches early in the season proved to be difficult.

But the turnaround started Sept. 15 with a 3-2 win over Oxford, and it continued with a sweep of Watertown on Sept. 19. Two of the Hawks’ four losses have come in five-setters.

“We’re learning how to win,” Amato said.

One of the most important strides Amato has seen in the last two weeks is the improvement in his team’s passing ability.

“One of the worst things you can do as an athlete is think too much,” Amato said. “At the start of the season, we were thinking too much about where the ball was supposed to go and it was too late a lot of the time. Now they’re starting to pass without thinking.”

Amato has also been particularly impressed with the play of Krebbs, who set the program’s single-match record with nine blocks in a 3-2 loss to Naugatuck on Sept. 12. She’s also reached double figures in kills in all but one match.

With the way his team has improved over the first few weeks of the season, Amato said he expects opponents to see a different version of the Hawks when they square off for a second time later in the schedule.

Woodland will visit St. Paul on Thursday and host Kennedy on Friday at 6 p.m.