By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News
BEACON FALLS — As the Naugatuck Valley League girls soccer season winds down, the target on the Hawks’ back is growing.
Woodland went undefeated in last year’s abbreviated season, and continued that stretch through nine matches this year with a 7-0-2 mark.
The Hawks tied Holy Cross, 1-1, in a match of NVL contenders on Oct. 8 at Crosby High in Waterbury.
Paige Letourneau scored the Hawks’ only goal against the Crusaders, who the Hawks beat in late September. The tandem of Isabela Mejias and Casey Mulligan combined for 12 saves in the net.
“I think we played well,” Woodland head coach Cait Witham said. “Considering it was a tie, I wasn’t too upset with the outcome. We had just played them [Sept. 25], so we knew it was going to be a much tougher game.”
Woodland had a week off after the Holy Cross game thanks to weather postponements. The Hawks enter the final two weeks of the regular season with seven matches left to play, including games against Wolcott and Oxford and two versus Naugatuck.
“We have some work to do down the stretch,” Witham said.
“I try and remind them that the target is getting bigger and teams are going to be coming after us, and we need to be ready for that,” she added. “I think as a team we are really progressing well. They definitely work hard.”
Mejias and Mulligan share duties in the net for the Hawks. Senior captains Katy More and Jenna Mierek head up the back line of defense along with Kaitlyn Leonard and Madeline Raffone.
“They are a great group that doesn’t like to quit,” Witham said. “That’s really a great quality from a coach’s perspective. A lot of the girls played on premier teams together, so the team really plays well together.”
Sara Alessio and Letourneau have been the leading scorers on offense. Delia Kotsaftis, Dani Celotto, April Bell and Nina Daponte have also played key roles on offense.
“Some of the younger girls have really stepped up to help us be successful,” Witham said. “Michaela Gasparri has really found her groove and scored one of the goals against Watertown. Meghan Harnett has also helped us on the offensive end.”
Woodland is scheduled to play Wolcott on Oct. 15, Naugatuck on Oct. 16, Oxford on Oct. 18, and Portland on Oct. 20, before a rematch with Naugatuck on Oct. 22. The Hawks are set to end the regular season with Seymour on Oct. 25 and St. Paul on Oct. 27.
“I think playing some of these tougher games down the stretch will help to prepare us for the NVL tournament and the states,” Witham said.
The NVL tournament will begin Oct. 30.