BEACON FALLS — The Woodland girls are fast.
The Hawks’ speed up front — even still without forward Steph Dumond — was too much for the Greyhounds on Monday, as Woodland dominated the possession en route to a 3-0 victory.
Woodland had at least two dozen more chances than Naugatuck throughout the Columbus Day morning matchup but the Hawks only needed a couple of conversions.
The first came just 37 seconds into the match when Keri DeBiase penetrated deep in the left side of the box before crossing to Jess Rodrigues. Naugatuck goalkeeper Caliah Baranowski deflected the first attempt but couldn’t corral the ball, allowing Rodrigues to pop it in for a 1-0 lead.
Woodland added another goal in the 36th minute when Marisa Macek chipped a ball to Audra Blewitt, who headed it to herself before firing a shot off the right post and in for a 2-0 advantage.
The first-half scorers, Rodrigues and Blewitt, are quickly gaining the confidence of the all-state midfielder who directs most of the Hawks’ offensive traffic.
“We have Jess Rodrigues at the top and she has great speed to win a lot of balls,” DeBiase said. “Audra Blewitt uses her speed to win a lot of 50-50 balls, too, so our speed helps.”
With a 2-0 lead, Woodland’s midfield and defense had the spotlight. Defenders Shea Gerry, Alaina Neddermann, Andrea Piccolo and Rosalina Santos held Naugatuck’s leading scorers, Alexya Alves and Steph Lima, completely at bay.
“Our defense starts up front,” Woodland coach Joe Fortier said. “We put a lot of pressure on their backs not being able to clear. We won the middle third of the field. We didn’t allow them to penetrate and when they did Shea, Alaina, Andrea and Rosie won the 50-50 balls. We lost Friday (2-1 to Bunnell) because we didn’t win the two 50-50 balls their goal-scorer had. We worked on that a lot in practice and it paid off.”
Blewitt added her second goal off a corner kick midway through the second half. Neddermann’s kick sprung loose inside the box and Blewitt emerged from the scrum to boot it inside the left post for a 3-0 edge.
“Almost all of our offensive players got a touch on it and I happened to kick it in,” Blewitt said. “I can’t really take credit for a team play like that. It’s all of our goal.”
It’s that attitude, Fortier said, that has helped Woodland to such a great start.
“Everything about them is unselfish,” Fortier said. “They don’t care who scores. They’re going to find whoever’s in the middle at the right time. They just want the team to score. They’re in the right spots because they’re very fast.”
Blewitt has established a relationship up front with Rodrigues in Dumond’s absence. Dumond said after the game she hopes to return from a broken forearm as soon as next week, so the added chemistry may help down the stretch.
“It’s hard without Steph because we had such good chemistry up front,” Blewitt said. “I’m getting used to Jess and we’re starting a new chemistry. It’s easy with a great team like this. When one person’s down someone else can step up.”
Woodland, now 10-1 after a 4-0 win over St. Paul on Tuesday, hits the road for games Friday at Seymour and Tuesday at Oxford. The Hawks like where they stand.
“We’re playing well but I’m not overconfident,” DeBiase said. “Watertown’s still a good team and I still think Wolcott is a tough team, so we have to play them both again. But I think we’re going to do pretty well.”
Naugatuck, who lost a 3-2 overtime game to Holy Cross on Tuesday, is now 6-3-1 and will host Sacred Heart on Friday before traveling to Torrington next Wednesday.
“We still need to do some work,” Naugatuck coach Sean Dunn said. “There’s a lot of season left. We plan on getting into NVLs and once we’re in there who knows what can happen.”