Hope turns to expectation for Hawks

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Woodland’s Austin Roberts returns a shot during a match against Naugatuck’s Fernando Moreno on May 4 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — After last season was cancelled, the Woodland boys tennis team began this year fresh with a first-year coach and hopes for success.

The Hawks dropped their opening match to Wolcott, but responded with a three-match win streak. That set the wheels in motion for a renewed mindset and hope quickly turned into expectation.

“I think it was just a matter of finding our rhythm and putting together some consistency,” head coach Ryan McEvoy said. “That first match against Wolcott was a bit of a blurb. Some of our guys were playing their first tennis match ever. We made some changes in practice and it helped us to build that consistency that helped to boost our confidence level.”

With each win the Hawks confidence level grew. Entering the homestretch of the regular season, Woodland finds itself near the top of the NVL at 6-4, behind Wolcott and Watertown.

“Our guys are a lot more motivated, they want to win,” McEvoy said. “I think maybe at the beginning of the season we were hoping to be successful, where now there is more of an expectation.”

Woodland’s Tyler MacDowall returns a shot during a match against Naugatuck’s Julio Perez on May 4 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The Hawks picked up wins over Holy Cross, 4-1, on April 30 and Naugatuck, 5-0, on May 3, before falling to Watertown, 4-1, on May 6.

In the win over Holy Cross, juniors Andy Hopkinson (6-2, 6-2) and Tyler MacDowall (6-0, 6-4) gave the Hawks a 2-1 advantage going into the doubles portion of the match.

The sophomore tandem of Kayo Niebrzydowski and Brian O’Connell took a 6-0, 6-4 win, and Holy Cross forfeited the second doubles match to hand Woodland a 4-1 win.

Woodland made it a clean sweep of Naugatuck.

Senior Austin Roberts won 6-4, 6-0 at No. 1 singles. Hopkinson (6-1, 6-1) and MacDowall (6-0, 6-0) earned wins at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, respectively.

In doubles play, Niebrzydowski and O’Connell won 6-2, 6-0, and Tyler Cyr and Nick Bshara won 6-4, 6-3.

“The first thing we needed to do was solidify our three singles players and they have given us the edge more times than not going into doubles,” McEvoy said. “We have been working on developing our doubles teams, and I’m very happy with the progress we are seeing.”

The Hawks ran into a Watertown team that is vying for a league title, and fell 4-1 for the second time this season. Niebrzydowski (6-1, 6-2) picked up the Hawks’ lone win at No. 3 singles.

Woodland has matches scheduled against Sacred Heart on May 8 and Kennedy on May 12, before ending the regular season May 14 at Torrington.