BEACON FALLS — The Woodland boys swim team entered the season having graduated six seniors from last year’s squad that finished a school-best third at the Naugatuck Valley League championship.
Armed with just two seniors, Zacary Bertrand and Ryan Curtin, and five juniors, Noah Behrle, Patrick Zieba, Noah Scott, Riley Muricchio and Brooke Iannone, the bulk of the team’s roster is underclassmen this year.
Through their first seven meets, the young Hawks were 6-1, just off the pace of last year’s 7-0 start.
A pretty good start for a team that was looking to hit the reset button.
The Hawks got to see where they stand when they took on five-time defending NVL champion Holy Cross Jan. 24. The Crusaders showed why they are the champions, winning the meet 100-77.
Zieba (100 backstroke, 1:02.65) and Curtin (100 breaststroke, 1:12.07) won individual events for Woodland. The 400 freestyle relay foursome of Scott, Zieba, Bertrand and Aiden Kennedy finished first in 3:53.83.
The next challenge for the Hawks would be how they responded to adversity. The Hawks got that chance Jan. 28 against Naugatuck.
The Greyhounds, the four-time NVL runner-up, presented just as much of a challenge as Holy Cross, but Woodland responded with an exciting 98-88 win.
“This (Naugatuck) is always a big meet for us,” Currier said. “The kids really get up for this meet. DJ pulled out first place in diving, allowing us to keep the lead. Jake Arisian and Noah Scott came through with some big first places.”
The Hawks got off to an early lead. The 200 medley relay team of Zieba, Curtin, Arisian and Scott won the event in 1:46.60, and the foursome of Jackson Bradley, Tyler Cyr, Kian Sirowich and Bertrand took third to give the Hawks a six-point advantage.
Kennedy and Tyler MacDowall finished second and third in the 200 freestyle, and Arisian won the 200 IM (2:06.17) to keep the slim lead.
The lead grew to 37-25 when Noah won the 50 freestyle (23.63) as Curtin and Bradley took third and fifth, respectively.
DJ Mulligan won the diving event with 188.25 points. But a second and third place from Naugatuck made it even more important for DeAngelo Allen and Nathan Bouffard to take fourth and fifth, respectively, to secure a 9-7 advantage in diving.
Naugy made a push, and after the Greyhounds won the 200 freestyle relay Woodland’s advantage stood at 71-69.
The closer the score got, the louder both teams got on the pool deck. The atmosphere was electric, and the meet came down to the next two events.
Zieba swam to victory in the 100 backstroke and MacDowall finished third. The Hawks closed the deal with Cyr, Bertrand and Curtin sweeping the top three spots in the 100 breaststroke to give Woodland an insurmountable 94-78 lead.
“It got a little close down the stretch,” Currier said. “Naugatuck is always a tough team, but we got that one-two-three finish in the breaststroke and that was it right there.”
“It’s all about letting these kids challenge each other and have fun,” he added. “Last year, we got them (Naugatuck) in the dual meet but they got us in the NVL. So hopefully we can turn that around this year.”
Woodland was scheduled to face Sacred Heart Jan. 31. Results from the meet weren’t reported. The Hawks will host Wilby-Kaynor on Friday.