Woodland girls soccer has big target on it following two straight NVL titles


Woodland girls soccer coach Cait Hernon knew all too well that when the Hawks began the season, there would be a target that would loom even larger for the two-time NVL champs.
Taking the sting out of losing six seniors was the fact that Woodland returned their top two scorers, junior Michaela Gasparri (all-division) and senior Dani Celotto (All-NVL, All-State).
They say offense wins games and defense wins championships and that suits the Hawks just fine with senior goalkeeper Casey Mulligan (All-NVL, NVL tournament MVP) in the net for Woodland.
“We did lose a lot of experience from last year, “ admitted Hernon. “But having our top two goal scorers back and Casey in the net, we have a lot to build around. We also have some younger players stepping into some key varsity roles.”
That wasn’t anymore evident than in the season opener against Pomperaug on Sept. 7 in a 1-1 deadlock. Freshman Giuliana Celotto drove one to the back of the net for the only Woodland score, but it was enough to keep the Hawks out of the loss column.
“We had to replace two starters on defense from last year, so it’s been a bit of a learning curve adding a few new defenders in the mix,” Hernon said. “Abby Bunk and Kathleen Henriques played last year on defense with Kyla O’Connor and Ava Napiello being the two additions.”
It didn’t take long for the Hawks top two scorers to be heard from as Woodland got past Hamden, 6-2, on Sept. 8. Dani Celotto buried two into the net and assisted on the other four goals. Gasparri scored a pair of goals, Meg Hartnett had a goal and an assist, and Siana Aijro also scored a goal.
“All of the seniors have been stepping up,” added Hernon. “O’Connor and Bunk on defense, Casey had a shutout over Ansonia, Dani is the leading scorer with four goals and four assists, and Siana Aijro scored in back-to-back games.”
Woodland improved to 2-0-1 on the season with a 3-0 win over Ansonia on Sept. 12. Dani Celotto scored two goals and Aijro added a goal to finish the scoring. Mulligan made 16 saves to keep Ansonia at bay.
“It’s good to gain a little momentum after the tie to Pomperaug, but we will be seriously tested against Holy Cross on Friday,” said Hernon. “That game should tell us an awful lot of where we are and where we need to go if we have any hope of defending our title.”
Woodland will host the Crusaders of Holy Cross on Friday, then travel to Torrington on Sept. 19 for a 6 p.m. match.