Hawks win with stout defense

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Naugatuck’s Stefanie Flores (22) brings the ball up field as Woodland’s Audra Blewitt (4) defends Sept. 13 at Breen Field in Naugatuck. Woodland’s Sonia Sousa (2) and Hailey Borris (14) along with Naugatuck’s Taylor Campos (15) keep a close eye on the action. Woodland defeated Naugatuck, 1-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Naugatuck’s Stefanie Flores (22) brings the ball up field as Woodland’s Audra Blewitt (4) defends Sept. 13 at Breen Field in Naugatuck. Woodland’s Sonia Sousa (2) and Hailey Borris (14) along with Naugatuck’s Taylor Campos (15) keep a close eye on the action. Woodland defeated Naugatuck, 1-0. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

NAUGATUCK — The Woodland girls soccer team is doing it with defense.

The Hawks (2-0) have started the season with back-to-back 1-0 victories over Naugatuck and Seymour.

In the season-opener against Naugy last Friday at Breen Field, Hawks sophomore defender Shae Geary capitalized on a penalty kick 15 minutes into the second half for the only goal of the game.

Woodland striker Jess Rodriguez drew the penalty kick on a collision in the box, but was in­jured on the play and couldn’t take the shot. Geary fired past Naugatuck goalkeeper Cailah Baranowski, who only saw one other shot during the game that featured two teams expected to be among the top contenders for the Naugatuck Valley League championship.

Erika Tyrell made eight saves for the Hawks against the Greyhounds.

First-year Woodland coach Cait Witham said the difference was the team’s defense. The back four of Geary, Andrea Piccolo, Rosalina Santos and Sonia Sousa kept the potent Naugy offense, including perennial All-NVL striker Alexya Alves, in check.

“To have a shutout against Naugatuck is a great accomplishment,” said Witham, the 2006 Woodland graduate who earned her first win as head coach after taking over for Joe Fortier. “Our team worked their butts off for that win.”

The Hawks have used a “flat four” defense, Witham said. In this setup, the defense plays in a line and moves in unison.

“We’re using our speed,” Witham said. “If the line gets beat, it’s easier to recover.”

Woodland earned a matching 1-0 win Monday afternoon at Seymour. The Hawks’ lone goal came in the final minute of the first half when Rodrigues set up Megan Lynch, who shot past Seymour goalkeeper Justine Inzero.

Unlike the match against Naugatuck in which Woodland only put two shots on net (including the penalty kick), the Hawks launched 19 shots on target against the Wildcats.
Ashley Tully made six saves for Woodland.

Woodland’s Gillian Hotchkiss (16), Shae Geary (9), Audra Blewitt (4) and Maribella Sousa (25) celebrate after Geary scored on a penalty kick versus Naugatuck Sept. 13 at Breen Field in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI
Woodland’s Gillian Hotchkiss (16), Shae Geary (9), Audra Blewitt (4) and Maribella Sousa (25) celebrate after Geary scored on a penalty kick versus Naugatuck Sept. 13 at Breen Field in Naugatuck. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Witham said recent practices have focused more on offense, which boasts several talented scorers on the front lines including Rodrigues, Audra Blewitt and others. Drills have included limiting the number of touches in the offensive end to make for crisper chances.

“We create opportunities, but the problem is finishing them,” Witham said.

Woodland hosts Derby on Wednesday before visiting Holy Cross on Friday. The Hawks will host their second nonconference game in as many weeks Tuesday against Brookfield.

Naugatuck plays its second game Wednesday at Sacred Heart. The Greyhounds will host Derby on Friday that is set to be the first game played on the high school’s new turf field. The following day, the ‘Hounds will travel to perennial power Pomperaug.

See more photos from the Woodland-Naugatuck game here.