BEACON FALLS — Oftentimes a rebuilding project can be slow, tedious and downright hard work. But building on a strong foundation can certainly have its advantages. What Woodland girls swimming coach Mike Magas has put together over the past few years has the Hawks a little bit ahead of schedule.
All the record holders have graduated but what the Hawks return is an eager group looking to make their own mark. Entering the second week of the season, Woodland is riding the waves of a team that has a lot of heart.
“These girls have stepped up and exceeded my expectations as to where they would be right now in the season,” Magas said. “They are not backing down from anyone, no matter who we are facing, and that shows a team with a lot of heart.”
Woodland turned a few heads in the first meet of the season when it methodically earned a 97-82 win over Holy Cross. The Crusaders broke out on top by winning the 200-yard medley relay and finished strong taking the 400 freestyle relay, but they were no match for the highly inspired Hawks.
Woodland won only five of the 12 events but they took seconds and thirds to stay with the Crusaders. Emma Sardinskas captured a first-place finish in the 200 freestyle with an effort of 2 minutes, 26.15 seconds.
Back-to-back wins from Anna Boris (100 butterfly, 1:18.53) and Brianna Christiano (100 free, 1:03.23) served notice that Woodland was in ‘til the final whistle.
Sarah Bryden outdistanced the field in the 100 backstroke with a winning time of 1:20.23. But it was the Hawks’ foursome in the 200 freestyle relay which avoided the relay sweep that set Woodland apart. Christiano, Sardinskas, Liz Thrasher and Chloe Ariola swam to a first-place finish in a time of 2:00.18.
“We didn’t come into this season looking for goals as far as the NVL is concerned,” Magas said. “The only goal we really have as a team is to be putting up our best times at the end of the season and improve those times with every meet we compete in. So far we are right on schedule. We have a couple of freshmen, Tatianna Lynn and Taylor Amore, who have really been consistent in dropping their times.”
Last Friday Woodland battled one of the league frontrunners in Torrington and the Hawks fell just short by a 97-91 final margin.
Maria Carranza raced to victory in the 100 breaststroke and Sarah Fowler won the diving competition, scoring a 145.60. Diving is what kept Woodland in the running as the Hawks swept the first three spots. Lauren Lombardo took second and Lexi Byczko placed third.
“We have four competitive divers and that will keep us in all of our meets,” Magas said. “Doug Mariano does a great job with our divers and we are one of the few teams in the league that has that kind of diving depth.”
Woodland took first place in the 200-medley relay with Fowler, Carranza, Christiano and Ariola posting a winning time of 2:09.29. The foursome of Carranza, Ariola, Christiano and Sardinskas won the 200 free relay in 1:57.30.
“We actually came into the last event holding a four-point lead over Torrington,” Magas said. “We just ran out of steam and bodies. But that performance was beyond anything I could have hoped for, especially against a team as strong as Torrington.”
The Hawks rebounded for an 86-70 win over East Haven on Tuesday. Event winners for Woodland (2-2) included the 200 medley relay team (Fowler, Carranza, Sardinskas, Lynn), Christiano (50 free, 500 free), Fowler (diving), Sardinskas (100 fly) and the 200 free relay team (Katie Porter, Thrasher, Sardinskas, Christiano).
Woodland will need to bring that heart when it travels to take on the two-time defending NVL champion Watertown on Friday before gearing up for a rivalry meet with Naugatuck on Oct. 4.