BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls basketball team has been hard at work, looking to get back to the state tournament after missing out for the first time in eight seasons last year.
Second-year head coach Jess Moffo is encouraged that she will have the depth on the bench that kept the Hawks from qualifying last season.
“We really didn’t have much of a bench and lost a few close games down the stretch because of it,” Moffo said. “Our record didn’t really show the potential of the team. They played with 110 percent effort and with a lot of heart. We can teach them the X’s and O’s but you can’t teach heart. That’s what this year’s team has: a lot of heart.”
The Hawks went 6-14 last year but showed what they were made of when they won the final two games of the season when all hope of a postseason bid was gone.
They showed the same resiliency of their new coach when they defeated Ansonia, a team headed for the Naugatuck Valley League tournament, in grand fashion on senior night, winning an overtime battle.
Woodland will need to find replacements for departed seniors Shannon Meany (leading scorer), Carli Mariotti (leading rebounder) and Alyssa Skibo (leading defender) along with seniors Jehna Kemp, and Jamie Minoski.
“We have some work to do as far as filling holes but I like the players we have coming back and their attitude,” Moffo said. “Tom Deegan, our JV coach, has been working with a lot of these girls and we now have a deep bench that will provide valuable minutes for us.”
Leading the way for the Hawks this season will be senior captains Liz Martin at center, Alma Rizvani at point guard, and Nicole Fowler at shooting guard.
A key to the team’s success will be the development of juniors Brianna Pacileo and Andrea Piccolo, a captain. Both players gained valuable experience as sophomores last season and began to excel in their roles.
“Brianna is our best defender and Andrea can really change the dimension of a game with her shot-blocking abilities,” Moffo said.
Woodland will also need quality minutes from juniors Hannah Deegan, Angeline Rosato, and Ashley Michie along with sophomore center Abbey Rosato and sophomore guard Rebecca Hale.
Moffo thinks the most important thing for her team leading up to the season is for the players to develop relationships.
“We decided not to have any preseason scrimmages and just work out together in order to build team chemistry,” Moffo said. “We are working on the fundamentals of ball handling, rebounding, boxing out and just having fun as a team. I think that will prepare us for the season, knowing each other’s abilities and how to come together as a team.”
The Hawks pride themselves on defense and last year held opponents to 40 or fewer in 15 games. If Woodland can stir up a little offense, it could be well on its way of getting back to the postseason.
“The league is so wide open this year,” Moffo said. “On any given night anyone can beat any team in this league. We are very excited about the season and looking to get back to the state tournament.”
Woodland will start the season on the road with games at Wolcott on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 at St. Paul. The Hawks’ will be home Dec. 14 against defending NVL Brass Division champion Watertown.