BEACON FALLS — With veteran Woodland girls’ tennis coach Jessica DeGennaro taking the upcoming season off, to focus on taking care of her newborn baby, girls’ swimming coach and business teacher Mike Magas is stepping in and hoping for a smooth transition.
“I know most of the girls already,” Magas said. “I’ve either coached them or had them as students.”
The team’s top two singles players, senior captain Stephanie Badale and junior Megan Wester, are returning, as are top doubles players, including senior captain Samantha Angeloszek.
In fact, Magas said, “We didn’t lose any of the top players. … We still have a strong team.”
Only two varsity players graduated last year, though and Erika Barnett will be out of the loop until mid-April, due to an illness.
The team won the Naugatuck Valley League in 2008 and the Copper Division in 2009. Magas, who coached boys’ tennis at Thomaston High School, and Badale and Angeloszek hope to put forth another strong showing this spring, despite a wide field of strong contenders.
“Obviously, with [Seymour] being the defending champs … everyone in the league is going to be trying to knock them off,” Magas said. “Holy Cross is always strong competitors. They will have a good team without a doubt. Wolcott was tough last year, as was Naugatuck, Torrington; and Crosby had a solid team. So I’d say at the top, there’s probably five or six teams that would be competing for the league, and that’s going to be our focus.”
But he said you never know what might happen with the rest of the league. Teams like Watertown or Kennedy “could sneak up on us,” he said.
“Yeah, I think it could be, potentially, another strong year,” Angeloszek added. “We have girls who have been playing for a long time and who’ve been taking lessons [in the off-season], so I think we’re all set.”
The Woodland girls will “jump right into the fire,” as Magas put it, when they face Holy Cross in their second home match April 10.
There, Badale will face Dre Moschello, the two-time defending league singles champion, with whom she’s shared something of a friendly rivalry over the pair’s high school careers.
“I like playing her,” Badale said. “It’s always cool because whenever I play at her court, I beat her, and whenever she plays at my court, she beats me.”
But Badale is hoping the contest’s history of reverse-home-court advantage will not repeat itself.
“Usually, when you play tennis, you want to keep playing and then whoever messes up first loses the point,” Badale said. “But playing [Moschello], it’s kind of different; it’s whoever gets the first winning shot. ‘Cause she doesn’t really mess up like that. She is very consistent and places the ball where she wants for winning hits, and I have to try to do the same back to her.”
Angeloszek is more concerned about the Torrington squad, with whom she and her doubles partner, Barnett, split a two-match regular season series.
“Last year, it was Seymour and Wolcott,” she said. “But [their top doubles players] graduated.”
The team spent last week conditioning and was stalled due to rain Monday and Tuesday.
Magas is looking forward to getting the girls through intra-squad “challenge matches,” which he will use to rank them and decide which players could be competitors and should get more court time at practices.