High school sports offered many great moments

Ken Morse

There have been some incredible Mo’s Moments on the courts, fields and tracks and in the pools this past school year. With the 2017-18 school year in the books, let’s look back at the top ten moments — in no particular order — from the past school year.

Woodland boys cross country makes school history: The Woodland boys cross country team became the first boys team in school history to finish the regular season undefeated (14-0) after beating Derby, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart on Oct. 10. “I told the boys going into the meet you have a chance to be the first undefeated team in my 17 years,” Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds said at the time. “They were aggressive to start today and kept it up.” The Hawks went on to finish as the runner-up at the Naugatuck Valley League championship meet the following week. Senior Matt Luxeder finished fourth at the meet and earned All-NVL honors. Juniors Greg Aldrich and Kyle Cromwell earned All-Iron Division honors.

Woodland girls make a splash at NVLs: The Hawks won Woodland’s first Naugatuck Valley League girls swimming and diving championship, outscoring undefeated Seymour 791-780 at the championship meet Nov. 3 at Kennedy High in Waterbury. Senior Dia Gawronski broke nine records in all at the meet to lead the Hawks to victory. Her win in the 100 butterfly in 57.21 seconds alone broke the Woodland school record, the Kennedy pool record, the NVL record and the NVL championship meet record. Gawronski and fellow senior captains Brooke Pope, Kyla Drewry and Jordan Williams leave some big holes in the lineup next year, but for one season the Woodland girls were unstoppable.

Greyhounds make run to soccer championship game: As the soccer season unfolded, you could just sense that the Naugatuck boys soccer team was playing with a purpose, and the Garnet and Grey took the entire borough of Naugatuck back to the glory days of the early 2000s when the Greyhounds won back-to-back state championships. Under second-year head coach Ryan Kinne, Naugy won its fifth straight Naugatuck Valley League title and then went on a run to the Class LL state championship game, where the Greyhounds fell, 1-0, to Glastonbury in a thrilling title match. “I’m proud of this team,” senior Yan Silva said following the game. “We did something nobody in this state thought we could do. We made a statement this year.”

Naugy restores gridiron tradition: Naugatuck’s first-year football coach Dave Sollazzo came into a touchy situation as fans and alumni were looking for a change. Sollazzo immediately focused on bringing the tradition back to Naugy football, including inviting former coach Craig Peters back on the sidelines and showing the team a documentary that featured the late Edmund Poscavage, an All-State football player in 1932 for Naugatuck. The Greyhounds created a buzz throughout the town and finished 9-2 and in the state playoffs. Not a bad start for a first-year head coach.

A legend steps down: Jim McKee stepped down as the Naugatuck boys swim coach after this past season, a move that may have come as a surprise to most people, except Naugy Director of Athletics Brian Mariano. Mariano knew it was coming and had talked the longtime coach out of it once already. But, after 42 years patrolling the pool deck for the boys team, the three-time Connecticut Swim Coach of the Year felt it was time. McKee leaves the program with 24 NVL titles, a 1992 state championship and three-time runner-up finishes in Class L, Class LL and the State Open. McKee isn’t going too far, though. He will be back on the pool deck in the fall to begin his 33rd season as the girls coach.

Greyhounds surprise on the basketball court: After a couple of disappointing seasons, first-year Naugatuck girls basketball head coach Gail Cheney came in with a new approach that ignited the team. Outside of a core of four or five players, Cheney determined the rest of the lineup by who excelled in practice to spark a competitiveness. The results spoke for themselves. The stands were filled on most nights, and Naugy finished the regular season at 17-3 before making a run to the Naugatuck Valley League championship game where the Greyhounds lost to Sacred Heart.

Woodland girls keep streak alive: The Hawks captured their sixth straight Naugatuck Valley League girls outdoor track championship and seventh consecutive NVL championship meet victory, and did so in unusual fashion. The championship meet took two days to finish due to inclement weather. The Hawks held a 111-100 lead over with just the pole vault postponed to the next day. Senior pole vaulter Julia Swiatek recorded a career-best jump of 8 feet to win the event and help the Hawks hold off Watertown, 121.5-118.5. “I didn’t think about the team title at all. All I thought about was running toward the bar. It is all such a blur that I have no idea what goes on in the air,” Swiatek said after winning the event.

Naugy girls cap undefeated season in dramatic fashion: The Naugatuck and Sacred Heart girls tennis teams entered the regular-season finale May 10 at Naugatuck High undefeated. After falling behind 3-1, Naugatuck rallied to beat the Hearts, 4-3, in a match that featured two tie-breakers. The outcome hinged on the doubles match between Naugatuck’s Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell and Sacred Heart’s Katie Brown and Katie Uszakiewicz. Behuniak and Russell held service three times with the match on the line to tie and force a tiebreaker. Then, they staved off two match points in the tiebreaker to win. Two weeks later, the Hearts got their revenge, beating Naugatuck, 5-2, in the NVL championship match.

Naugy softball makes deep run in states: The Greyhounds, led by freshman pitcher and All-NVL player Alyssa Roberts, shook off a first-round loss in the NVL softball tournament and went on a run in the Class L state tournament that landed them in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009. The Greyhounds fell behind early in the first-round game against Bristol Central and their second-round upset of Windsor, but they couldn’t complete the rally versus Jonathan Law in a 5-2 loss in the quarterfinals.

Clearing hurdles and bars: Naugatuck senior hurdler and sprinter Aren Seeger earned the Most Outstanding Hurdler award at the Naugatuck Valley League outdoor track and field championships after finishing second in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. Zack Koslosky ended the NVL meet in style for the Greyhounds with his best day ever — a jump of 13 feet, 6 inches — to win the pole vault. Seeger went on the win the Class L championship in the 110 hurdles and the State Open title in the 300 hurdles.