Hawks settling into pandemic-altered season

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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

Woodland’s Elayna Beutel (35) goes for the kill during a match against Seymour Oct. 6 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — After the first week of matches for the Woodland volleyball team, the Hawks are starting to settle in — although the results of victories aren’t as rewarding as usual during this pandemic-altered season.

“We’re playing it for real, but we’re getting paid in Monopoly money,” Woodland coach Jim Amato said.

Woodland won two of its first three matches, earning a 3-2 win over Oxford in the season opener Oct. 2 and a 3-0 sweep of O’Brien Tech on Oct. 8. Between those victories was a 3-0 defeat to two-time reigning state champion Seymour.

The Hawks have strengths on different parts of the floor thanks to their experience. Senior middle hitter Elayna Beutel and senior libero May Dawes lock down the front and back rows, respectively, while junior setter Kylie Bulinski helps facilitate the offense.

The rest of the lineup varies and depends what the Hawks need at any given time.

Woodland’s May Dawes (40) hits the ball during a match against Seymour Oct. 6 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

“We had some roles that were already filled, and we’re figuring out how to best utilize the strengths of some other players,” Amato said.

The Hawks pushed the Wildcats in the first two games, 25-22 and 26-24, before falling away in the third. Beutel led Woodland with five kills and three blocks, while Kylie Bulinski led the service game with three aces.

Volleyball is unique this year in a couple of ways, the most prominent of which is that it’s the only sport in which athletes must keep face masks on while competing. Amato said it hasn’t negatively affected his squad.

“It’s kind of like second nature at this point,” Amato said. “They’ve been wearing masks since we’ve been doing conditioning, so they’ve always had them on. It almost feels like it’s part of the uniform, as odd as that is.”

Woodland is set to return to action Oct. 13 and Oct. 15 with home matches against Ansonia and Oxford.