BEACON FALLS — No matter who the Woodland girls’ basketball team loses every season, coach Gail Cheney’s Hawks seem to always put together a winning season. Imagine what they’ll be able to do after losing only two seniors and bringing back an all-state player.
Coming off a 14-9 season in which Woodland earned a spot in the Naugatuck Valley League tournament semifinals, the Hawks feel like they have the tools to be in the same spot again this winter.
The key piece to the puzzle is senior Heather Framski, who was named all-state, all-NVL and all-NVL suburban last season and is on pace to score her 1,000th point and challenge for the program’s all-time scoring title this year.
Framski got off to a hot start last season but was more limited in the second half of the season as opposing defenses began to key in on her. That’s where Katie Alfiere and Jen Fredericks came into play, but those girls are now college athletes, and their absence will be an early obstacle for Woodland.
“It’s going to be difficult,” Framski said. “There are probably going to be a lot of double- and triple-teams down low and that’s where other players are going to have to step it up. The pressure’s off me and on them.”
Cheney thinks the Hawks have enough players ready to contribute, including junior forward Carli Mariotti and senior guards Lindsay Feducia and Kate Tuckey.
“Hopefully Carli will step it up big for us this year,” Cheney said. “Obviously, Katie and Jen are big shoes to fill. We’re looking for some strong guard play from Tuckey and Feducia. We’ve got a freshman, Andrea Piccolo, who’s pretty good. Hopefully she’ll give us some good minutes off the bench.”
Along with Feducia and Tuckey, senior guard Kelsey Deegan is also a strong ball-handler, and that trio gives Woodland its strongest backcourt in years. The strength at guard doesn’t mean the Hawks will change its traditional game plan of getting its scoring from inside the paint, but it will help balance the offensive attack.
“I want to be seen as a threat all around the court, not just in the post or at the guard position,” Cheney said. “This year, not only Feducia, but Tuckey has stepped it up in practice and Kelsey as well, and I think if we all play like we practice, we could be pretty good.”
Feducia played very well at the end of the last season, becoming Woodland’s go-to shooter and ball-handler, so her presence might not be a surprise to the league. But Tuckey remained quiet most of the season and is looking for a breakout senior year.
“Last season, my shot was there when I wasn’t thinking and playing mind games with myself,” Tuckey said. “I’m going to try not to think when I shoot and just be confident.”
Woodland should also have more depth than it’s enjoyed in recent years. The Hawks were down to a seven- or eight-player bench by the end of last season, but Cheney says up to 12 players are ready to contribute this time around.
“Right now we’ve got a solid 12 kids,” Cheney said. “I want to try to rotate as many kids as I can this year. Right now we’re pretty solid. Nicole Fowler, she’s a sophomore who didn’t play and should be a good defensive threat.”
With a larger rotation, who knows what fans might see this season. Cheney has never lacked creativity, and don’t expect there to be any shortage this year.
“They all know what they need to do,” Cheney said. “They’ve shown so much collectively already how good each one of them can play. I try so many crazy things with them it doesn’t really matter. There’s a method to my madness.”