BEACON FALLS — Despite finishing last year as the NVL runner-up, the Woodland boys soccer came into the season as a bit of an underdog.
Armed with only four seniors, the Hawks quickly gained the attention of the league in a 1-0 loss to Naugatuck in the third game of the season. The Hawks didn’t lose another game until the semifinals of the NVL tournament.
The Hawks also accomplished a feat no other boys soccer team has done in the program’s history — win a state tournament game.
The promising season came to an end Nov. 10 when No. 10 Woodland (14-3-3) fell to No. 26 Plainville (8-8-2), 3-0, in the second round of the Class M tournament.
“It was a tough way to have the season end,” Woodland head coach Tony Moutinho said. “Plainville is a very good team but I thought we could stay with them. On any given day we could stay with any team, but [Nov. 10] was not that day.”
Defense has always been the stabilizing force of the Hawks’ game, but this year saw a resurgence in the offense as they outscored the opposition 65-22. That doesn’t mean the defense — led by seniors Xavier Gibson (All-Iron), Zach Powanda (All-Iron) and goalie A.J. Oliveira (All-NVL) — faltered. The Hawks recorded eight shutouts this season.
“I thought we came a long way this season,” Moutinho said. “We went from underdogs to contenders. We are going to lose three of our four defenders but we have an awful lot of talent coming back.”
Along with Gibson, Powanda and Oliveira, the Hawks will lose James Nelson to graduation.
Returning players include juniors Anthony Barreira, Christian Poirier, Jack LaPerriere and Senol Music, and sophomores Maciej Lewicki and Tim Mendes.
“We won’t be the underdogs anymore. We had a lot of first-time varsity players in our freshman and sophomores to go along with a solid junior class. We will be one of the hunted coming into next season.”