Woodland girls blend experience, youth on the court

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Woodland senior Meg Webster will lead the Hawks this season as the No. 1 singles player. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER
BEACON FALLS — They’ve been the best in Naugatuck Valley League girls tennis in two of the last three years. Now, they’ll try to do it again—without some of the key pieces they’ve leaned on to win three-straight division titles and NVL titles in 2008 and 2010.

The Woodland girls tennis team has been dominant in recent years with players like Stephanie Badale, Sam Angeloszek, and Jill Pagoni. Those All-NVL players are gone, so it’s up to a mix of veterans and inexperienced underclassmen to continue the Hawks’ winning.

Leading the charge at No. 1 singles will be senior Meg Wester, a former All-NVL pick with a wealth of experienced near the top of the singles lineup. Senior Lauren Tremaglio is expected to compete in the No. 2 singles spot while three girls—seniors Nicole Nelson and Brooke Dragon and sophomore Liz Martin—are fighting for the other singles positions.

Woodland coach Mike Magas, who led the Hawks to a 22-1 record and the first-ever NVL team tournament championship, thinks those singles players, plus pushes from seniors Amanda Olivera and Eileen Hurley and junior Dayna Chucta, should help create a solid lineup.

“Between all of those players, we should have a good lineup,” Magas said. “Hopefully after a few matches we’ll be able to see who fits where.”

On the doubles side, Woodland returns seniors Angela Vallillo and Avery Gartman, who earned All-NVL honors last year by finishing fourth in the doubles tournament. Those players are expected to lead the Hawks’ doubles lineup while the rest is mixed and matched.

Magas said it’s important for those with match experience—particularly Wester, Tremaglio, Dragon, Vallillo, and Gartman—to help him get the younger players ready to compete.

Woodland senior Angela Vallillo will pair with fellow senior Avery Gartman as the Hawks most formidable duo on the court. PHOTO BY LARAINE WESCHLER

“I think the biggest thing is asking the girls playing below them to step up their games,” Magas said. “They have to compete at a higher level now. We have to get some of the younger girls who didn’t play varsity matches last year to work hard because they might be competing this year.”

Magas thinks freshmen Julia Lawton and Rachel Mariano can make impacts this season, as well as sophomores Kim Thrasher and Emily Rioux.

The Hawks might need all hands on deck as Magas said this season could be the most competitive the league has been in a long time.

“We’ve had a lot of success through the years,” Magas said. “They do have some expectations before they go into the season. They’d like to finish toward the top of the league. I know a lot of teams are returning a lot of players. I wouldn’t be surprised if any one of about eight teams wins the league this year, that’s how wide open it is.”

Magas said he’s “just too afraid to pinpoint a finish” because of the evenness of the league, but he said the team’s first goal is to qualify for the NVL team tournament to defend its championship. Getting there could be a challenge.

“There’s no game that you’re just going to say this should be pretty easy for us,” Magas said. “There’s a lot of parity going on.”

Woodland started its season Wednesday at Ansonia before traveling for Holy Cross on Saturday.