Turning things around

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Postseason hopes alive for Hawks after 0-6 start

Woodland’s Mike Roulanaitis lines up a return shot versus Wilby’s Aqib Moughal May 6 in Beacon Falls. Roulanaitis won the match 8-4, as the Hawks beat the Wildcats 7-2. –LUKE MARSHALL
Woodland’s Mike Roulanaitis lines up a return shot versus Wilby’s Aqib Moughal May 6 in Beacon Falls. Roulanaitis won the match 8-4, as the Hawks beat the Wildcats 7-2. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — New Woodland boys tennis coach Mike Magas knew the first few weeks of this season would be a struggle with a small roster of inexperienced players. But the Hawks have turned it around in a hurry.

After an 0-6 start, Woodland has won four of its last seven meets to put itself in a position to contend for a postseason berth.

“The guys finally realized that they’re the team now,” said Magas, whose singles lineup is filled with six players who didn’t start last year. “The guys that had always been playing on the JV level are now the varsity starters, and it took them a few matches to realize that the team counts on them.”

The Hawks’ first win came April 24 at Watertown. They’ve since beaten Wilby twice and Kennedy once while suffering defeats to Crosby and Sacred Heart. The loss to the Hearts came when Woodland played without two of its top four singles players.

No. 1 singles player Pat Mulholland earned an 8-1 win Tuesday over Wilby’s Adam Colagrossi, who had defeated Mulholland last week. Mike Roulanaitis, Jack Walsh and Alex Tulk also earned singles wins against the Wildcats, and the Hawks took two singles wins and a doubles win by forfeit.

Roulanaitis and Walsh have been among the team’s hottest players as they picked up singles wins in Woodland’s 5-4 victory over Kennedy last week. They also teamed up to pitch a shutout in a doubles match, while Tulk and Dan Johnson helped clinch the win with singles victories.

“They’re really stepping up their game,” Magas said. “If they fall behind, they’re battling to the end. I’ve seen a few matches in the last couple of weeks in which our guys were down and they came back to pull out victories.”

The wins have also inspired confidence among the players — similar to the confidence with which the Hawks played during their 54-match Naugatuck Valley League winning streak over the last three seasons.

“They’re starting to gain confidence and we’re getting momentum,” Magas said. “Once you gain momentum, things that weren’t going your way start going your way.”

Woodland needs to finish with a .500 record to earn a state tournament berth, and it will be a tough climb.

The Hawks suffered a setback Wednesday in a 7-2 loss to Torrington, dropping to 4-9 on the year. Woodland faces a pair of upcoming tough road tests Friday at NVL-leading Wolcott and Tuesday at Berkshire League power Lewis Mills.

The possibility of finishing with a .500 record will be difficult, but it’s one that hardly existed at the beginning of the season.

“At one point we were 0-6 and the season was looking bleak, but now we’ve gotten some wins,” Magas said.

Magas thinks the confidence his team has gained might translate into some upset victories down the stretch, when Woodland faces teams for a second time.

“They’ve been very consistent from the start of the season,” Magas said. “They’re starting to realize that they’re talented and they can play with almost anyone in the league.”