BY KEN MORSE
Maybe some teams thought the overconfident Hawks were just all talk trying to inspire their new coach Ryan McEvoy last season. Much to everyone’s surprise, there was Woodland on the final day of the tournament facing Watertown for an NVL championship.
The Hawks were not successful that day but they certainly left their mark as one of the teams to be aware of come this season. After graduating just one player from last season’s stellar run, Woodland is back looking for what is next.
“The expectation around here has certainly heightened from last year,” said McEvoy. “I think going as far as they did last year and not coming away with the championship just made them even more hungry to go out and finish what they started.”
What they started won’t be an easy task as teams like Watertown, Torrington and Wolcott will all have a say at what goes on come tournament time.
Woodland does not come into this fray empty-handed. They have All-NVL doubles champions Tyler Macdowall and Andy Hopkinson as senior captains, along with All-NVL juniors Nick Bshara and Brian O’Connell, who will have much to say before this matter is concluded.
Woodland has shown recently what it will bring to the court, earning three straight 5-0 shutout wins over Naugatuck, Holy Cross and Torrington. The April 22 neighboring rivalry with the Greyhounds served up notice that the Hawks are taking no prisoners.
Hopkins (6-1, 6-3), Macdowall (6-2, 6-0) and Kayo Niebrzydowski (6-2, 6-0) swept singles play from the Greyhounds. In doubles the tandems of O’Connell-Bshara (6-1, 6-3) at No. 1, along with Diego Sargent and Evan Lin (6-0, 6-1) at No. 2, completed the sweep.
Against the Crusaders on April 25, Hopkinson (6-2, 6-3), Macdowall (6-0, 6-1) and Niebrzydowski (6-0, 6-0) swept singles play and the doubles teams of O’Connell and Bshara (6-0, 6-0), plus Sargent and Nate Bouffard (6-2, 6-0), completed the win.
Woodland improved to 9-2 on the season with another 5-0 win over Torrington on April 27. The Raiders didn’t make it easy as Hopkinson escaped with a 6-0, 3-6, 10-7 win at No. 1 singles.
Macdowall (6-0, 6-0) and Niebrzydowski (6-0, 6-1) gave the Hawks a comfortable 3-0 edge heading into doubles play. O’Connell andBshara scored a 6-2, 6-0 win followed by Sargent-Bouffard winning a battle, 6-3, 7-5.
“It’s almost like they are playing with a chip on their shoulder,” said McEvoy. “They are all practicing on their own when practice is over. I’m seeing a lot of drive from them that they really want to get back there and have another shot at it.”
Woodland has upcoming matches against Wilby next Wednesday, followed by a showdown with Wolcott on May 9.
BY KEN MORSE