BEACON FALLS — Last year, the Woodland boys’ tennis team relied on the best player in school history to capture its eight wins. This year, he’s gone.
The Hawks look to compensate for the loss of No. 1 singles player Joe Rosa, the Naugatuck Valley League runner-up who became the first Woodland tennis player to reach the quarterfinals of the Class M state tournament.
“You never really can replace players,” second-year head coach Jim Amato said. “You just have to manage the talent that you have again next year. And we have some good talent to work with this year.”
Amato and the Hawks hope senior Pat Bradley and junior Mike Krakowski power Woodland’s lineup this season; Krakowski is coming off a season in which he qualified for the Class M tournament and lost a three-set battle in a decisive tiebreaker.
“They’re going to be somewhere in the top three or four,” Amato said.
Also returning is senior Stew Wilson, who made steady contributions last season as a doubles and occasional singles player. Senior Mohamed Shitia has made the team as a first-time player and should see plenty of playing time, according to Amato. The Hawks also are excited about freshman Stephen Pec and several other newcomers.
“It looks like we’re gonna have 12 guys,” Amato said. “I feel proud that we have 12 boys coming out for the team, which is one of the largest numbers we’ve ever had. It shows we’re moving in the right direction as a program.”
With a solid turnout, Amato and the Hawks will employ a playing strategy slightly different from last year’s, with an emphasis on getting more players onto the court during matches.
“This year, we’re going to try to get as many kids involved in the program as possible,” Amato said. “We’re going to do a ladder for singles and have guys specialize in doubles. We’re going to try to get more feet on the court instead of just six [guys].”
Woodland starts the season with three home matches among its first four before hitting the road for five straight contests. The Hawks meet Naugatuck April 8 in the season opener and Amato says his team can’t wait.
“They wanted to go practice today in the rain,” Amato said Tuesday. “I said to them, ‘I get it, you guys want to play. But go home!’ These guys are excited, and so am I.”