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By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News

Hawks finding footing; Greyhounds pick up where they left off

Woodland’s Amber Rosato (18) hits the ball over the net during a match against Amity on Sept. 13 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Even though Woodland volleyball coach Jim Amato knew this season would pose plenty of challenges, he was thrilled to get some sort of normalcy back at the start of the year.

“It was great to be back into full tryout mode and seeing so many athletes coming out for the team,” Amato said. “It was great to have kids back on the court. That made it feel like years previous.”

In terms of the on-the-floor product, Amato struggled to figure out exactly how to assess his squad in the early going. The Hawks have a few experienced returners, but there are plenty of players trying to fill new positions.

“We’re finding our footing and rebuilding after a pandemic year,” Amato said. “It’s not necessarily a rebuilding year. It’s more of a learning year. This team is just getting its legs under it. It’s finding its identity. I like how they’ve come together as a team, and that’s important moving forward.”

Kylie Bulinski, a senior setter, returns as a third-year varsity starter, but she’s far from alone.

“Amber Rosato has really stepped into the role as lead outside hitter,” Amato noted. “She and Kalle Legassey make a good offensive duo. Alexandra Lisowski and Cassidy Doiron will be filling up the middle. We have some great defensive players with Rory Nolan, Juliana Rubino and Rebecca Swift. And we’re running deep on the bench: Maille Ianniruberto, Samantha Sosnovich, Chelsea Donovan, Ava Cratty and Emma Fabrizi.”

The Hawks split their two opening matches, a 3-0 defeat against Amity and a 3-0 sweep of Oxford, before falling to Naugatuck, 3-0. In the Sept. 14 win over the Wolverines, Rosato led the way with seven kills, 12 digs and two aces, while Bulinski tallied 16 assists and Legassey had six kills and six digs.

Woodland’s Rory Nolan (38) prepare to hit the ball during a match against Amity on Sept. 13 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Woodland (1-2) will play Torrington on Sept. 21 and East Haven on Sept. 22. The Hawks will also be home Sept. 24 against Watertown, and Woodland’s first meeting with rival Seymour will be Oct. 7 at home.

The Greyhounds, meanwhile, kicked off what’s still technically a defense of their 2019 Naugatuck Valley League championship with three victories.

Naugy swept Bunnell, 3-0, on Sept. 10 to open the year. Kendall Allen had six kills and five aces, while Kaylee Jackson tallied five kills and an ace. Nadia Cestari added four aces.

The Hounds followed up with a 3-0 sweep of Ansonia on Sept. 14 thanks to an outstanding night of serving. Cestari served up eight aces, while Allen and Jackson added five aces apiece. Samantha Mullin chipped in with seven aces, and Felicia Salvati had four.

In the sweep of Woodland on Sept. 17, Jackson had 10 kills, 14 points and four aces. Allen had nine kills and two aces, while Nadia Cestari dished out 11 assists.

Naugatuck has matches against Pomperaug on Sept. 20, St. Paul on Sept. 21. Naugy will return home Sept. 24 to face Torrington.