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Far left: The boys’ hockey team gathered together at Winter Sports Awards Night. Photo by Jill Grant/Woodstock Academy. Left: Alum Andrea Danforth will take over as head coach of the Centaurs’ girls’ soccer program this fall. Photo by Marc Allard.

Lower left: Winter Scholar Athlete, from left: Owen Hamilton, Charlie Caggiano, Olivia Tracy, Isabel D’Alleva-Bochain, Hunter Larson and Emma Long were recognized for being named ECC Scholar-Athletes. Photo by Jill Grant/Woodstock Academy.

Lower right: Winter Sportsmanship, from left: Livia Gerum, Reegan Reynolds, Eric Mathewson, Kira Greene, Lucas Theriaque, and Chandler Folkerts were recognized as ECC Sportsmanship Award winners. Photo by Jill Grant/Woodstock Academy.

Alum Danforth takes the helm of the girls' soccer
There will be one noticeable difference this fall on the sidelines for the Woodstock Academy girls’ soccer team. There may be a little more noise emanating from the bench.
Andrea (Plucenik) Danforth was recently named head coach of the Centaurs, replacing Dennis Snelling who stepped down at the end of last season.
Snelling served as coach of the Woodstock Academy program for 12 years.
“I think I’m more vocal,” Danforth said. “(Snelling) was quiet, a very quiet coach. I don’t yell at the girls but I’m constantly building them up and telling them what they have done right because that was important to me as a player. I constantly think about things that I wanted, that I needed from coaches and I want to build on that.”
Danforth served as a volunteer assistant coach last year and also coached at Woodstock Middle School prior.
She is returning to her alma mater as head coach. Danforth graduated in 2011 from Woodstock where she was an All-State and All-New England player as a sophomore and junior.
Unfortunately, the second of her six knee surgeries ended her Centaur career early as she could not play her senior year.
She went on to play Div. I college soccer at UConn where she played for three years, having had to sit twice due to that nasty knee.
Now, she finds the sidelines enjoyable. “I want to be a coach who understands,” she said. “I’ve had lots of different coaches in my time and the ones who played at the level that I did; got it the most."
It’s something she said she didn’t understand when she was in high school, until she had to when she was injured the first time.
She admits she desperately misses playing and wishes she was still 18 or 19 years old and able to run up and down the pitch.
She also has the challenge of the soccer world as it is to deal with today.
There are other programs out there and, sometimes, athletes choose to play club rather than high school sports in the hope that it elevates chances to play at the next level.
“I think a big part of getting them to come to us is building a positive program and showing them that, there are other opportunities, but I have always been a big believer in playing for your school. There is pride in it,” Danforth said.
The Centaurs finished 9-8-3 under Snelling this past season.
Danforth will have plenty to work with coming in. ECC Div. I All-Stars Freya Robbie and Leah Costa return as seniors. The top three scorers from this past season, Costa (14 goals, 2 assists), Juliet Allard (3, 4) and Isabella Selmecki (4,2) all return as well.
Boys’ Hockey
Woodstock Academy falls in semifinal
There is a regret that Woodstock boys’ hockey coach Mark Smolak may harbor for some time.
He didn’t think his team came out with the necessary focus or urgency on Tuesday at Quinnipiac University.
As a result, the Centaurs saw their season come to a close as they lost to East Haven, 6-0, in a CIAC Div. II state tournament semifinal game.
Smolak has been at the helm of the Woodstock varsity program for only two years and was JV head coach for a year before that.
He has seen plenty of success in his brief tenure. He took his junior varsity team to a championship game in his first year. Last year, he brought the Centaurs varsity team to the brink of a Div. II title only to fall short in overtime in the championship game.
The career of a high school player is short, just four years to groom not only a player, but a team.
In a good cycle, like the one Woodstock has enjoyed, players like Noah Sampson, Maxx Corradi, and Donny Sousa come together.
But the Yellowjackets (8-15) were a team on a mission. Late in the season, 14 of their wins were stripped away due to the use of an ineligible player.
They barely qualified for the Div. II tournament despite being the top team in the division for much of the season.
“I told the kids that you need to play with urgency against this team. You have to back check hard. You need to win your one-on-one battles and your races to the puck. Physically, you need to dominate them,” Smolak said.
Woodstock, according to Smolak, didn’t have a good physical play until just five minutes were left in the third period and Alex Gessner “destroyed,” according to Smolak, an East Haven player in the corner.
The Centaurs controlled the play for the last five minutes. It was, obviously, the old standby, too little, too late.
There was a bad omen to start. The Centaurs were given the same locker room they had a year ago in the loss to North Haven.
The Yellowjackets had opportunities in the first period when they took 10 shots at Woodstock goalie Devlin Mansolf.
It was a case of bend but don’t break and for the most part that happened.
About halfway through the period, however, East Haven senior captain John D’Albero found the net.
“Our objective was to try and get the puck in deep and forecheck,” Smolak said.
Unfortunately, the flip into the other end wasn’t high enough and it was able to be batted down.
D’Albero was able to split the Woodstock defenders, who were left a bit surprised that the puck had been knocked down and he was able to poke it into the Centaurs’ net.
In the second Landon Cantele scored 6 minutes, 33 seconds into the period and just 24 seconds later, Lorenzo DeFilio added a shorthanded goal, the first of two penalty-killing goals, in the four-goal second period for East Haven.
“Those back-to-back goals were absolute back breakers,” Smolak said. “We talked to (his team) for a week and told them (East Haven) was hyper-aggressive up top and on their penalty kill, we had to keep the puck down low, cycle down low and attack the net from down low. We kept reverting to bringing it back high and they scored two shorthanded goals.”
DeFilio and D’Abreto both added second-period goals to make it 5-0 going into the third period and DeFilio finished off the hat trick just 3:39 into the final period.
“The frustrating part was walking back to the bench; we all knew we were capable. We had played fast teams. ... Mentally, we just couldn’t get there,” Smolak said.
Gessner, Noah Sampson, Troy Daviau, Thomas Blevins, Donny Sousa, Sam Lescault, Ryan Wallace, and Jared Nielsen will not return.
“(Nielsen) has been asked to play every single position known to man and he never complained about it. He’s always, ‘I will do whatever I can to help us win’ and part of the reason our season turned around was because of us moving him back to defense,” Smolak said.
As a result, Nielsen was the team’s recipient of the Hobey Baker Character Award.
Sampson finished as the team’s leading scorer with 23 goals and 22 assists.
He, junior Maxx Corradi (22 goals, 21 assists) and Sousa (16, 15)  accounted for 61 of the Centaurs 86 goals.
None of them will return to the lineup next season.
For the Centaurs who finished 12-11, it will be different. Sophomore Brady Lecuyer (11, 12) is the leading returning scorer.
Woodstock played a difficult Div. I-type schedule this season.
“We can’t do that when almost 90 percent of our goal scoring is gone. We might be headed back to (the) Nutmeg (Conference),” Smolak said.
Award Ceremony
The winter athletic season officially came to a close at Woodstock  with the Winter Sports Awards Night.
Student-athletes who received All-State, ECC and other awards were recognized and the winter program’s coaches also handed out their awards.
The All-State and All-Star award recipients included: Class M All-State in boys’ indoor track – Christian Menounos; Class M All-State and ECC Division I All-Star in girls’ indoor track – Emma Weitknecht; Class M All-State and ECC Division I All-Star in girls indoor track – Juliet Allard; Class M All-State and ECC Division I All-Star in girls indoor track – Talia Tremblay; Class M All-State and ECC Division I All-Star in girls indoor track – Julia Coyle;
Div. II boys’ hockey 1st team All-State – Noah Sampson; Div. II boys’ hockey 1st team All-State – Maxx Corradi.
Class S gymnastics 2nd team All-State- Livia Gerum; ECC Division I All-Star in girls’ indoor track – Jillian Edwards; ECC Division I All-Star in girls’ basketball- Isabel D’Alleva-Bochain; ECC Division II All-Star in boys’ basketball- Brady Ericson.
ECC Honorable Mention in Division I girls basketball: Eva Monahan; ECC Honorable Mention Division II boys basketball- Hunter Larson; ECC Honorable Mention in Division I wrestling: Lucas Theriaque; ECC Honorable Mention in Division I girls indoor track: Avery Schaefer; ECC Honorable Mention in Division I girls indoor track: Kira Greene; ECC Honorable Mention in Division I girls indoor track: Olivia Tracy; ECC Honorable Mention in Division I girls indoor track: Avery Plouffe.
Senior Jared Nielsen was also recognized as he received the school’s Hobey Baker Character Award in boys’ hockey this season.
ECC Scholar-Athlete Awards:
Wrestling- Owen Hamilton; Boys Indoor Track –  Charlie Caggiano; Girls indoor track  –  Olivia Tracy; Girls basketball -   Isabel D’Alleva-Bochain; Boys basketball – Hunter Larson; Gymnastics –  Emma Long.
ECC Sportsmanship Awards
Gymnastics – Livia Gerum; Girls basketball –  Reegan Reynolds. Boys basketball –  Eric Mathewson; Girls Indoor Track – Kira Greene; Boys Indoor Track  –  Chandler Folkerts; Wrestling – Lucas Theriaque.
The coaches also handed out their individual program awards. A coach’s award is given to an athlete who demonstrated a hardworking, unselfish, positive, and competitive attitude and one who, in the eyes of their coach, is a “model” participant for others to follow: Boys Hockey: Varsity- Brady Hebert, Alex Gessner; JV- Vaughn Buzak. Girls Hockey: Varsity – Avery Nielsen, Ellary Sampson. Wrestling: Varsity – Ayden Angel-Ouimette, Lucas Theriaque; JV- Gunnar Basak. Girls Basketball: Varsity – Kerry Blais, Reegan Reynolds; JV-Keegan Reynolds; Freshmen- Reegan Scheck. Boys Basketball: Varsity-Teddy, Richardson, Brady Ericson; JV- Lucas Quercia; Freshmen – Nate Jezierski. Unified Basketball: Athlete- Zachary Thibeault - Partner- Jack Sumner.
Boys Indoor Track: Varsity – Christian Menounos, Charlie Caggiano; JV- David Sumner. Girls Indoor Track: Varsity – Juliet Allard, Julia Coyle; JV- Lillian Morgis. Spirit Squad:  Varsity – Kiki Xu, Caylee Morrison. Skiing: Varsity – Emma Brody, Filip Nemcek. Gymnastics: Varsity – Emma Long, Olivia Aleman.
The girls’ basketball team earned the team grade point average award for having the best combined academic performance of all the winter teams while the boys’ basketball team was named the Best Dressed team in attendance at Winter Sports Awards Night.
Marc Allard
Director of Sports Information
The Woodstock Academy


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