BY KYLE BRENNAN
Everything is looking up for the Woodland boys soccer team.
A year ago, the Hawks didn’t have enough players for a full junior varsity squad. This year, they not only have enough depth to put together two squads, but the varsity lineup is senior-laden and filled with championship potential.
“We only graduated two seniors,” Woodland coach Kenan Collins said. “We were junior-heavy last year, and the majority of this year’s seniors play year-round. The experience they bring is invaluable.”
The Hawks opened the season with a 2-1 record through their first week, including two routs in Naugatuck Valley League action.
R.J. Giampetruzzi, Tanner Barrows and Luke Verrelli each netted two goals in Woodland’s 8-0 win over Wilby on Sept. 9, and Matthew Villano tallied two goals with four assists in the Hawks’ 7-2 victory over Ansonia on Sept. 12.
Also scoring twice against the Chargers was Giampetruzzi, one of Woodland’s dozen seniors. Not only does he have a hot foot to start the season, but he’s shown enough grit and leadership for Collins to name him captain after the third match.
“R.J. Giampetruzzi banged in a lot of goals as a junior, and he’s hit the ground running with four goals in three games,” Collins said. “We named him captain [Sept. 14] — he got fouled [against Ansonia] on one play, pulled a cramp on another, and still said, ‘Coach, put me back in.’ He’s a natural goal scorer.”
Collins also praised Villano, a senior whose six-point game against Ansonia showed why he “is a joy to watch.”
John Sizer, a senior defender who earned All-NVL honors last year, leads Woodland’s back line as a second-year captain.
“He’s an absolute rock in the back,” Collins said. “He’s calm on the ball and he reads the game unbelievably well. He’s a jack of all trades, and he’s really our foundation from the back.”
The rich also got richer when Nick LaChapelle, a standout runner for Woodland’s track program, decided to play soccer instead of running cross country as a senior.
“You can tell he brings a lot of experience with him,” Collins said. “He’s just a good kid to have around. He works hard and he has a lot of pace.”
Even Woodland’s lone defeat, a 3-0 loss to Pomperaug in the season opener Sept. 7, came with plenty of positives. The Hawks didn’t get a full practice in the days leading up to that match due to heat advisories, and the Panthers reached the Class L quarterfinals a season ago.
“We knew we were going to be in for a challenge with Pomperaug,” Collins said. “I was undeniably proud of the boys for keeping it competitive. It was nil-nil at halftime, and we let in a silly goal after that, but it took a while for the boys to be broken down. Despite the 3-0 score line, I’m not remotely upset with the effort they gave. That’s in our rearview mirror now, and we settled ourselves against Ansonia and Wilby. We’re always looking forward to the next game.”
Woodland was set to host Bassick on Monday and Torrington on Wednesday before visiting Wolcott on Friday. The Hawks will host Naugatuck in a rivalry match Sept. 26.
BY KYLE BRENNAN