Last year, Woodland’s Liz Martin and Hope Gavigan fought through an all-day, five-match, 63-game marathon to finish as the runners-up in the Naugatuck Valley League doubles tournament.
This spring, the going was a little easier for the Hawks top doubles duo, and they won the whole thing.
Martin and Gavigan won their semifinal and final matches Tuesday in straight sets as they became the first players in Woodland girls tennis history to win individual gold medals.
Martin and Gavigan fought for a 7-6 (7-3), 6-2 win over Seymour’s Cierra Green and Pallavi Kastiri in the semifinals before coasting to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Wolcott’s Brianna Napolitano and Bethany Gallucci in the final.
This year’s run for the Hawks tandem wasn’t nearly as surprising as it was last spring. They barely played enough regular-season matches to qualify for last year’s tourney and pulled three upsets as the No. 12 seed to make the final.
That achievement lifted their goal for this tournament, which they entered as the No. 3 seed.
“We had no expectations last year,” said Gavigan, a junior. “It was amazing to get to the finals because we never expected to get there. But this year our whole goal was to win it all.”
After squeaking past Green and Kastiri in a first-set tiebreaker, the Woodland team cruised the rest of the way. Martin put away the championship point with a forehand at net.
“I thought we were going to have to play two more sets, so we were like, let’s get this over,” Martin, a senior, said of the tiebreaker. “In the championship match, we just focused on not making mistakes and that’s what won it for us.”
Woodland coach Jess DeGennaro thought that even though Martin and Gavigan pulled fewer upsets and played less tennis in this year’s tournament, their task was tougher this season because they had more of a target on their backs.
“Last year they had a tougher day, but this year they had a harder year because they set this goal,” DeGennaro said. “When they walked off the court last year, they had this goal. It’s harder to maintain the status as a top doubles team all season.”
Woodland’s No. 2 doubles team of Emily Rioux and Ayah Galal won two matches Monday to make the quarterfinals before losing to Kennedy’s top-seeded Sema Hasanajo and Marinela Maxhari.
On the singles side, the Hawks’ Julia Lawton and Rachel Mariano both made the quarterfinals. Lawton, the No. 7 seed, won her first match over Meghan Collins, 8-2, before falling to Watertown’s Gabby Rinaldi, the eventual runner-up, 8-6.
“You want your players playing their best tennis at the end of the season. Julia Lawton is the perfect example of that,” DeGennaro said. “She’s playing the best tennis of her three years here and has improved so much this season.”
Mariano, the No. 9 seed, cruised in her first-round match and upset Holy Cross’ Lauren Sideravage, 9-7, in the second round before losing to St. Paul’s eventual champion Emily Lindsley, 8-2.
“Rachel Mariano has shown so much perseverance,” DeGennaro said. “There are some matches when she’s down 2-7 or 3-7 and rallies to win. She played great in this tournament and I’m really proud of her.”
The strong showings in individual play followed a disappointment in the team finals, where top-seeded Woodland fell to No. 2 Watertown in the finals, 4-3. The Indians swept singles play to claim their second straight championship. The Hawks had beaten Sacred Heart and St. Paul in the previous two rounds to make the final.
Naugatuck falls in quarters, Kim makes run: The Greyhounds, the No. 5 seed in last weekend’s team tournament, fell to St. Paul in the quarterfinals to end their tourney run early.
Naugy’s No. 1 singles player, Hannah Kim, made the best showing of any Greyhound in the individual tournaments. As the No. 5 seed, she knocked off Sacred Heart’s Alexia DaSilva, 8-1, before falling to Seymour’s Elli Emmanouil, 8-4, in the quarterfinals.
Kayla Gallant also won a match, taking her first-round match 8-4 over Crosby’s Paruntina Berishi, before bowing out to Rinaldi in the second round.
In doubles play, Sarah Cook and Mikaela Santo made the biggest upset run of the tournament. The No. 22 seed earned an 8-6 upset over a Seymour team in the first round before knocking off a No. 6-seeded squad from Holy Cross, 8-5, to make the quarterfinals. There, they fell to Martin and Gavigan.
Kayla Rotatori and Chelsea Iglesias also made the doubles field but fell in their first-round match.