Success breeds high hopes for Hawks

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Woodland senior Erin Webster, a middle blocker for the Hawks, practices last Friday at the school. The Hawks are coming off an undefeated season last year but are eyeing a state championship this year. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — With success comes lofty goals. The Woodland volleyball program has become used to both.

After an undefeated regular season in 2011, the Hawks lost in the state tournament quarterfinals.  This year, head coach Jim Amato made the goals clear.

“We have many goals: qualify for the states, win a division title, win the NVLs and get to a state championship,” Amato said.

But Amato was clear — nothing has been won yet. And he’s quick to remind his players of what lies ahead.

“Last year’s team had its responsibilities, and this year’s team has its own responsibilities,” Amato said. “I tell the team we’re still undefeated. But we’re 0-0. We haven’t won a match yet.”

Amato said he knows the task of winning a championship will not be easy, but with a solid group of experienced players returning and a winning tradition, anything is possible for the Hawks.

The Hawks return two key hitters — senior Tayler Boncal and junior Brianna Pacileo — and the team’s libero, Nicole Fowler. All three had key roles on last year’s squad.

“They’ve been there before,” Amato said. “They have experience in many five-set matches and the postseason.”

Woodland junior Brianna Pacileo, an outside hitter for the Hawks, warms up during practice last Friday at the school. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Amato said two important keys to the season will be defense and middle play.

Senior Erin Wester, junior Machol Butler and sophomore Abbey Rosato will get opportunities in the middle. Sam Edwon and Adriana Ambari, standouts in the middle last season, graduated.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the middle play matches up to what we’ve done before,” Amato said.

The team’s main setter will be junior Samantha Lee. Senior Amanda Poehailos and junior Jillian Gorman will get time at the opposite position with Lee.

On defense, junior Rachel Starkey will see time in the back row.

Amato said he came away pleased with the team’s recent performance at a jamboree in East Haven. The team has one more scheduled scrimmage on Monday against Pomperaug before the regular season starts.

Woodland opens on Sept. 11 with a home match against Watertown. On Sept. 14, the Hawks host Seymour, their nemesis in the NVL Brass Division. Both matches start at 6 p.m.