Hawks up for the challenge

The Woodland girls tennis team will be led this season by seniors, from left, Ally Mayne, Elif Abedin, Alyssa Varesio, Arianna Sherwood and (missing from photo) Angelina Padilla. –KEN MORSE

BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls tennis team hit the court last season riding a stretch of success that had the Hawks in the NVL championship match three years running with one title over those years.

The Hawks finished the regular season 11-5 last year, but were stopped in their quest for a fourth straight appearance in NVL championship match with a loss to Naugatuck in the quarterfinals. After going 23-8 in two years under head coach Kate Gavigan, the Hawks are ready for the challenge they face heading into this season.

“There were times that we underperformed, and I know the girls felt that,” said Gavigan about last season. “They are fired up about coming into this season and are not about to let that happen again.

“After playing in the NVL championship three years in a row and tasting the thrill of victory, last year they got to taste the agony of defeat. We may have gotten complacent and by midseason the wheels started to come off the bus.”

The Hawks graduated their number one doubles team of Paige Gainey and Katie Rioux, part of their number three doubles team in Rayhan Luzeri, and number three singles player Alexandra Pettas.

Woodland does return a solid nucleus to build from, and certainly that experience throughout the lineup will make the Hawks one of the teams to beat coming into the season.

Leading the way will be number one singles player senior Ally Mayne and the number one doubles team of seniors Angelina Padilla and Alyssa Varesio. The Hawks will also have the experience and leadership of seniors Elif Abedin and Arianna Sherwood to lean on.

“Ally is a role model for these younger girls,” Gavigan said. “She has a quiet confidence about her and it shows in her game. We are so happy to have her as a leader.”

Woodland also has two very solid players in the middle of the lineup in juniors Amanda Doughney, a consistent number two and three singles player last season, and number three doubles player Morgan Stockheimer.

“Every year we have some of the younger girls step up and I’m looking forward to seeing who emerges from this year’s group,” Gavigan said. “They are such an athletic bunch of girls that it just floors me the amount of talent there is.”

“Every year is a clean slate,” Gavigan added. “Regardless of past records and targets on your back, attitude is everything.”

Woodland is scheduled to start the season April 3 at Wilby. The Hawks have a home match versus St. Paul on April 5 and a match at Wolcott on April 7.