From all of us at Citizen’s News, here’s wishing all of our readers a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Surely there’s bound to be clarity this year — after all, it’s 2020. (You’ve heard that joke many times already, but I wanted mine on the print record.)
Of course, we can’t move forward if we don’t first look back at what got us here in the first place. That means it’s time for us to review some of the top local sports happenings from 2019.
The 1,000-point club: Woodland’s Zach Bedryczuk and Naugatuck’s Jean Lukau each hit the milestone of 1,000 career points within a week of one another in January (both coincidentally against Torrington). Lukau became the 17th player in school history to achieve the feat, while Bedryczuk became the sixth. Lukau also led his team to some postseason success, helping Naugy reach the Division III quarterfinals.
Teams of one excel: Nonnewaug junior wrestler and Prospect native Jack Cronin, a 182-pounder, won the Berkshire Valley Invitational and the Class S tournament before finishing as runner-up in the State Open and among the top 12 in New England. Woodland freshman Elias Sturdevant, a 113-pounder, also won a Berkshire Valley title and placed sixth in Class S.
Naugatuck wrestler Logan Wilcox narrowly missed a spot in the State Open, too. Hawks senior gymnast Kristina Poynton qualified for the State Open, New England championships and national championships in vault.
Locals dominate on court: There was no doubt all spring about which school is the preeminent tennis power in the NVL. Naugatuck cemented its place by cruising to the boys and girls team titles, followed by a pair of doubles championships. Jared Montini and Jay Mezzo won the NVL boys doubles title, while Brielle Behuniak and Hailey Russell claimed the NVL girls doubles crown.
However, few tennis players in NVL history have ever been as dominant as Woodland’s Josh Powanda, who cruised to the league’s singles title by not dropping a set in NVL play the entire season. His only defeat came in the Class S state tournament.
Woodland baseball regains semis: It had been 12 years since the Woodland baseball team had reached a state quarterfinal — so the Hawks did themselves one better and reached the Class M semifinals for the first time since 2007. Their season came to an end with a sloppy loss to Wolcott, but players such as Bedryczuk and Colby Linnell will go down as among the top players in school history.
Big year for Naugy’s boys of summer: Post 17 didn’t bust any scoreboards this summer, but a lights-out pitching staff and a scrappy offense helped Naugatuck advance to the Southern Division Super Regional final. Composed mostly of high school players from Naugatuck and Woodland, Post 17 suffered a 4-3 loss to eventual state champion Stamford in the club’s deepest tournament run since 2001.
As the sun set on summer, Peter J. Foley Little League took center stage when it hosted the Scott’s and MLB “Little Field, Big Experience” event, complete with a big-time production, fireworks and appearances by David Cone and Kevin Millar.
Hawks perform like seahawks: Woodland diver Riley Clark added his name to the short list of local athletes who have won three consecutive NVL individual championships when he earned his third and final league diving title. His win came as part of the Hawks’ best-ever season in the pool, during which they beat four opponents for the first time in program history and finished a school-record third place at the league meet.
In the fall, a dominant diving performance and deep team efforts lifted the Woodland girls to their second NVL title in the last three seasons, edging Seymour by just two points. Kayleigh Theroux and Ella Bernegger went one-two in the diving competition.
Harrowing harriers at the helm: The Woodland girls won a jaw-dropping eighth straight NVL indoor track title last January, but their outdoor track title streak stopped at six this spring. The area wasn’t short of a winner in the spring, though, as the Naugatuck boys came through with their own league crown, helped by the feats of outstanding all-around athlete Zach Koslosky.
In the fall, the Woodland girls and Naugatuck boys won cross country championships at Watertown. Each team dominated, as the Hawks and Greyhounds both placed seven runners among the top 20, including top finishers Emma Slavin and Brendon Soubannarath (both in third place).
Naugy tops Hawks in soccer rivalry: The growing rivalry on the pitch between the Naugatuck and Woodland boys continued this fall as the Greyhounds exacted a bit of revenge by defeating the Hawks for the NVL championship. A year prior, Woodland bounced Naugy in the league semifinals. Both teams reached the quarterfinals of their state tournaments — a program record for Woodland.
First title for Naugy spikers in two decades: “Insane” was the only way NVL tournament MVP Brielle Behuniak could describe the Greyhounds’ thrilling, 3-2 win over eventual state champion Seymour in the league final Nov. 6. Behuniak’s 10th and final kill of the match gave the ‘Hounds their first NVL title since 1998.
Woodland football returns to playoffs: The Hawks made it back-to-back nine-win seasons and Class S quarterfinal berths with another successful year led by a diverse offense and a strong defense. The most memorable effort of the year came in a 26-20 loss to Ansonia that will go down as arguably the NVL’s best game of the decade.