Another year of high school sports is slowly fading away from us as we enter July. Just like every year, the young athletes from Woodland and Naugatuck high schools will look back at some unforgettable moments.
While there are much more moments than can be printed in this piece, we have counted down the top ten to share. These memories surely have us looking forward to the start of another sports year in about seven weeks.
Naugatuck’s run to Mohegan: There is no doubt that the Naugatuck boys basketball team surely had a one-of-a-kind season, going 16-4 and reaching the state finals for the first time since 1974. While Naugy lost to Bunnell in the final, head coach Mike Wilson had quite a team this year with two All-NVL players in Dayvon Russell and Jarron Chapman, captain and three-point threat Jason Bradley, big men Fejiro Onakpoma, James Messidor, and Trevor Davis, and the very athletic CJ Wall. But don’t overlook Wilson one bit. He was the main reason for Naugy’s magical run.
Fowler wins NVL diving championship: Woodland senior Sara Fowler became the fourth Hawk in 11 years to take home the NVL diving crown when she won the title in the fall of 2014. The All-NVL Fowler joined alumni Rachel Battis, Heather Chucta and Danya Chucta as the only Woodland divers to accomplish this feat. What is even more special about this accomplishment is that Fowler wasn’t even planning on diving when she came to Woodland as a freshman.
Naugy boys soccer wins second straight NVL title: It was two trips to Municipal Stadium and two NVL trophies for head coach Art Nunes, as his boys soccer team took down Torrington in 2013 and 2014 to claim the titles. Many players from both teams have now moved on after graduation, including Tyler Saad, Danny Martins, Joe Martins, Josh Aviles, Enzo Pereira, Fernando Branco and Adam Branco, along with many others. It will be interesting to see Nunes’ next group of players as he tries to defend a title for the second year in a row.
Woodland girls continue title run: The Woodland girls continued their dominance in track and cross country this year. The Hawks took home the NVL cross country, indoor track and outdoor track titles. The three league titles this year made it eight in a row for the girls. “That is a tribute to the girls and the hard work they put into this program,” said Woodland head coach Jeff Lownds after the girls won the outdoor track championship.
Mariano the next head honcho at Naugatuck: After coaching for five years at Watertown High School, Lisa Mariano has made her way back home to Naugatuck to become the girls soccer head coach after Sean Dunn stepped down. Mariano comes to the ‘Hounds after compiling a 78-19-6 record at Watertown, winning the NVL title in every single season, including a win against Naugy in 2013. An All-State and All-New England player, Mariano first was a volunteer assistant coach under Pat McGinley at Naugatuck before taking the Watertown job. She will be taking over a Naugy team that went 9-8 last season.
Anderson back in the huddle: The Woodland football team has now appointed their third head coach in the past three years, hiring Chris Anderson in early June of 2015. In case you don’t remember Anderson, the 43-year-old led the Hawks to back-to-back NVL and Class SS state championships in 2004 and 2005. Anderson will take over a team that went 4-7 last season, but returns two All-NVL players in running back Sean McAllen and safety Coby Vaccarelli.
Greyhound pair makes an appearance in the NVL final: Abigail Jang and Floraine Evardo earned their way in to the NVL tennis doubles championship in the spring. While they fell 6-1, 6-1 to a duo from Watertown, Jand and Evardo surely had an amazing journey to the final. One reason was that Evardo was a singles player coming into the season. However, she went on vacation during the season and when she came back, she found her singles spot taken and was forced to pair up with Jang. However, Evardo admitted that she quickly formed a close bond with Jang and that bond helped carry the first doubles to the NVL final under head coach Jose Sendra.
Woodland golf makes presence known in NVL: The Woodland golf team has shown steady improvement over recent years and burst on the scene this spring, finishing15-1 overall, 9-1 NVL. The Hawks’ only loss came the Watertown, the NVL champions. The Hawks finished second at the league meet to Watertown, as well. Led by senior Mike Erickson and junior Ryan Warner, Woodland also finished in the top 10 at the CIAC boys D-III championship. The Hawks tied for tenth place with a 333 (+45) and had a top five individual scorer in Ericson, who shot a 74 (+2). The angle here is that they took a large jump since last year. They went 11-9 in the regular season last year to record their first winning campaign in quite some time under head coach Bill Carangelo.
Greyhounds run down titles: The Naugatuck boys cross country, indoor track and outdoor track teams all were crowned NVL champs in 2014-15. Head coach Ralph Roper had a talented group of athletes this school, which included All-NVL, All-State, and All-New England Dan Schumacher. Fejiro Onakpoma also earned a spot in the New England championship meet for his victory in the Class L triple jump and fifth place finish at the State Open. Other key players included Brian Reilly, Mark Zamani, Mike Zamani and Brody Hale. Another interesting side note from this track and field team is Mike Popescu. After leaving the tennis team following an All-NVL season, Popescu had such a successful season on the track that he will get a chance to earn a spot on UConn’s track and field team in the fall.
Two no-hitters for Hawks: Stephanie Kiley was the only senior on the Woodland softball team this spring. Up until this year, she played pretty much every where on the field and batted everywhere in the lineup. This year she took over on the mound, replacing four-year starter Samantha Lee. Kiley showed she was more than comfortable in the circle when she threw a no-hitter April 16 against Wilby. She struck out nine and walked one as the Hawks won in five innings, 21-0. Sophomore Maddie Hupprich, who also saw some action pitching this season, added her own no-hitter May 2 in a 15-0 win over Derby. “I was just looking to throw strikes and rely on my teammates to make the plays behind me,” Hupprich said. “I give them all the credit. They fielded every ball and didn’t make any errors. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Naugatuck football’s win over Derby: The Greyhounds earned a state playoff berth in a 48-13 blowout of Derby. A highly anticipated matchup ended one-sided in a big statement win for Naugy.
Brown lights it up on the court: The Woodland boys basketball team struggled this with injuries, including a season-ending leg injury to starting center, 6-foot-5 junior Eric Beutel, in the preseason. However, senior Austyn Brown averaged 21.7 points per game, third in the NVL.
NVL runs: The Woodland girls tennis and soccer teams made runs to the NVL finals, but they were both defeated. For the tennis team it was their third straight appearance.
Naugatuck softball scores 64 runs in one week: In four consecutive days, Kevin Wesche’s team outscored their opponents 64-6. It included a 9-4 victory over St. Paul, 19-1 over Ansonia, 16-1 over Kennedy, and 20-0 over Sacred Heart.