Even if the Woodland boys’ soccer team somehow loses every game left in the regular season, the Hawks will still post a winning record in 2010.
Eight games into the 16-game regular season and still unbeaten and untied as of Wednesday morning, the Hawks were perched on top of not only the Naugatuck Valley League’s Brass Division but the Class M state standings, as well.
“[Being undefeated] is a complete surprise to all of us,” said senior captain Tyler Carlos. “We worked hard in practice before the season started, and it’s paid off ever since.”
8-0 for the first time in Woodland’s history and boasting the NVL’s top goal-scorer, Eric Dietz, the Hawks passed through a late-September gauntlet of tough matches unscathed.
“I’m very surprised that we’re still undefeated, especially with three wins in a row like that,” Coach Tony Moutinho said of victories over Seymour, Watertown and Holy Cross. “Those were very good wins.”
Dietz scored the loan goal late in the second half in a 1-0 nail-biter victory at Seymour Sept. 24. The win marked the first time a Woodland boys’ soccer team has defeated the Wildcats.
Four days later, Dietz tallied two more in a match versus Watertown before Carlos sent the Indians packing with a goal won by persistence — the Watertown keeper blocked his shots twice in a row, but on the third rebound, Carlos slipped it by to give the Hawks the 3-2 edge.
“Against Watertown and Seymour, not once did anyone put their head down. We never gave up as a team. We showed great determination until finally we were able to find a winner in both games,” Carlos said of securing the elusive winning goals in the Seymour and Watertown matches.
“They probably outplayed us a little bit, I think, in my mind,” Moutinho said of Watertown. “We just wanted it more than they did, I think, in the end. That’s the thing with this team. We never give up.”
And last Friday, the Hawks had to dig themselves out of a 3-1 hole in the second half to tally a come-from-behind, 6-4 win at Holy Cross. Dietz notched a hat trick as Matt Moutinho scored twice and Lumbardh Pacuku added another.
On Monday, the Hawks defeated St. Paul Catholic, 7-3, in the rain as Dietz and Pinho scored twice and Carlos, Moutinho and Nicholas Boccuzzi recorded one each.
Coach Tony Moutinho credits not only his excellent star scorers and their offensive production but depth in his midfield, “superb” defense, and an odd — but effective — goalkeeping strategy for the Hawks’ early success.
Marc Beaulieu and Patrick Dietz share duties in net every match, playing a half apiece — a strategy Moutinho admits is strange but sticks to because, well, it seems to be working.
“Marc starts and plays first half, and I don’t count what the score is, and Patrick comes in the second half” Moutinho said. “We started out that way, it’s been working, and I’m not going to jinx myself.”
The Hawks were scheduled at press time to face the Naugatuck Greyhounds in what could wind up being a preview of the NVL championship matchup Wednesday night.
The 7-0-1 ‘Hounds, while not as convincing as last year’s squad, are defending an NVL title and producing solid offensive output in spite of a few close games.
“We’re very confident,” Moutinho said of the Hawks’ chances versus Naugatuck. “I think we’re pretty evenly-matched this year, for once.”
Regardless of how things turn out in what could be the Hawks’ toughest match to date, Moutinho and Carlos are eyeing the state tournament with great anticipation.
The Hawks have never come out on top during state tourney play.
“This is the year if we’re going to [win a state tournament game],” Moutinho said. “I don’t see us going undefeated, but you never know. We’re going to shoot for it, but that’s not out main goal. Our main goal is to win the NVLs and really advance in the states.”
“Never has the Woodland boys’ soccer team won a game during the state tournament but this year, the way things are going, that might just change, Carlos added. “We are playing at the top of our game right now.”
Kyle Brennan contributed reporting.