Looking ahead to some key spring sports matchups

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BY KYLE BRENNAN
CITIZEN’S NEWS
The spring high school sports season got underway April 1, and over the next two months, Woodland and Naugatuck will compete for Naugatuck Valley League championships before turning their attention to the state postseason.
Here are some of the most notable contests on the spring schedule.
Woodland boys tennis vs. Watertown (April 18): The Hawks fell to Watertown in the NVL championship match last season, and despite graduating a couple of their top players, they expect to contend again this year. A home rematch of last year’s league final may serve as a postseason preview.
Woodland track vs. Holy Cross and Watertown (April 18): Woodland always expects to challenge for a league championship, and this early-season meet against two of the league’s perennially better teams will give an indication of how the Hawks are shaping up. In a scheduling quick, this isn’t even Woodland’s most important meet in April — that happened April 4 in Naugatuck against the Greyhounds and Derby, which featured arguably the league’s top three teams.
Woodland baseball at Naugatuck (April 21): You won’t find two teams in the Valley who get as fired up to play each other as do the Hawks and the Greyhounds. Their lone regular-season matchup will take place at Legenza Field, and both teams will have plenty to prove while still in the first half of the campaign.
Naugatuck softball at Woodland (April 21): Two years ago, these teams met in the borough in a thrilling NVL championship game. While both teams have bid farewell to many of the key players from that contest, it always seems like the Greyhounds give the Hawks a run for their money. Three weeks into the season, it will be a good test for a Naugy team that has some rebuilding to do.
Naugatuck track at Seymour (April 25): After kicking off the season April 4 at home against championship rivals Woodland and Derby, the Greyhounds will close the first month by visiting Valley rivals Seymour and Oxford. The Wildcats, who always feature high-end talent, should give Naugy a test about a month prior to the league championships.
Woodland softball vs. Oxford (May 1): Even though the Hawks enter this spring as the No. 4-ranked team in Connecticut, they will have a substantially new look after graduating five longtime starters. Division rival Oxford, which lost to Woodland in last year’s Class M final, hosted these teams’ first matchup of the season April 5 — and this might not be the last time they see each other this spring.
Naugatuck boys tennis vs. Watertown (May 1): First-year coach Stephanie DeLuca thinks the Greyhounds will be a much stronger team than they were a year ago, and they’ll have a chance to prove it in the home stretch of the regular season with a home matchup against defending league champion Watertown.
Naugatuck softball at Watertown (May 1): Many coaches expect the Warriors to challenge for the NVL championship, so they will be the Greyhounds’ biggest challenge in the division with quality returning pitching and hitting.
Woodland golf at Naugatuck (May 3): The Greyhounds enter this spring with some momentum after posting their best finish at the NVL championships in nearly a decade. Woodland only has one senior on its roster but enters the year with one of its biggest rosters in program history, and by this point in the season, the Hawks could be in shape for a competitive match against their neighboring rivals.
Woodland baseball vs. St. Paul (May 8): Michael Belcher enters his junior season as one of the state’s top pitchers, and he will make the Hawks favorites to win any game he pitches this year. Although Woodland graduated most of the top half of its lineup from last year’s Class M runner-up squad, the Hawks figure to be among the league’s better teams this year and will look toward this game against the defending Class S champion Falcons as a measuring stick entering the postseason.
Naugatuck baseball at Holy Cross (May 10): Night games at Municipal Stadium just mean a little bit more, and so could this game against the defending NVL champs as the home stretch of the regular season rolls around. Tournament positioning and momentum entering the postseason will certainly be on the line in this one.