Oct. 1, 2009
Central Connecticut State Chosen 2009-10 NEC Women’s Swimming and Diving Preseason No. 1
Blue Devils Look To Defend Northeast Conference Crown For Third Year
2009-10 Northeast Conference
1. Central Connecticut State (6)
Somerset, NJ — For the third consecutive year, Central Connecticut State has been chosen as the favorite to win the Northeast Conference (NEC) women’s swimming and diving championship, according to a poll of the league’s seven head coaches. Receiving six of seven first-place votes, the two-time defending NEC champion Blue Devils enter the 2009-10 campaign with hopes of winning their fourth league title. Last season’s runner-up, Wagner, claimed the second spot on the list with one first-place nod to edge Saint Francis (PA), which landed in third. Bryant took fourth, followed by Sacred Heart and Mount St. Mary’s in fifth and sixth, respectively. St. Francis (NY) rounded out the field of seven.
Central Connecticut State begins the hunt for its third straight conference title under the tutelage of eighth-year head coach and two-time (2007-08 and 2008-09) NEC Coach of the Year Bill Ball. Ball is supplemented by assistant coach, Dave Maliar, who returns for his seventh season and was the recipient of NEC Diving Coach of the Year honors in 2008. The duo of Ball and Maliar also led the Blue Devils to their first-ever ECAC team crown in 2008. Despite losing a talented senior class that included the likes of All-Conference first teamer and captain Erin Crowley - who captured three individual freestyle titles at the 2009 championships - the Blue Devils sport a gifted group of returnees. All-NEC first team members Alyssa Carlucci (Danbury, CT/Danbury) and Megan McGorry (West Haven, CT/West Haven) are back for their junior campaigns after exceptional outings at the league championships last year. Carlucci finished first in the 100 breast with a time of 1:06.37, an almost four-second improvement from the 2008 championships. She also claimed second in the 200 breast and 200 IM with times of 2:24.80 and 2:09.39, respectively. McGorry improved her marks as well with a 4:53.78 500 free, good for first place, as well as a 16:45.96 in the 1650 free to outlast all other swimmers. She also took first in the 400 IM, clocking in at 4:29.55. All-NEC first team member, 2009 Outstanding Diver and four-time NEC Diver of the Week Mallory Miller (Southbury, CT/Pomperaug Regional) returns after an outstanding rookie campaign that found her in the winner’s circle in both the one-meter (219.05 points) and three-meter (235.10 points) diving categories at last year’s conference championship. She beat out classmate, all-NEC second teamer and three-time NEC Diver of the Week recipient Sam Smolicz (Berlin, CT/Berlin), who also performed well with a second place finish in both diving categories. The Blue Devils return 15 members of the roster and anticipate the arrival of nine freshmen after losing four to graduation.
Wagner enters the season with the goal of capturing its first NEC title after finishing fifth or better in 10 of the last 11 seasons, three of which were second place finishes and two third place showings. After taking third in the 2008 championship meet, the Seahawks improved for a second place finish in the 2009 championships, just 17 points back, in head coach Mark Sowa’s first season. Under Sowa’s leadership, Wagner is well-equipped to contend with four all-NEC performers returning. All-league first team honoree, two-time NEC Swimmer of the Week and 2009 Outstanding Swimmer honoree Jess Hart (Summerfield, NC/Northwest) was recently named co-captain as she returns for her final season in Grymes Hill. She placed second in the 50 free (24.19) and first in both the 100 and 200 fly (54.23 and 2:00.48) during last season’s conference championships. After earning first team all-NEC honors in 2008 and a team MVP award that same year, Melanie Rodriguez-Lapman (Chesire, CT/Chesire) joins Hart as co-captain and will attempt to make an impact in this season’s run at the title. Junior Bethny Brown (Enfield, CT/Ennco Fermi High) is back after earning silver in the 100 breaststroke (106.86) a year ago, besting her time from 2008 – when she finished first in the event – by almost a full two seconds, and bronze in the 200 breaststroke (2:29.42), thereby garnering second team and third team all-conference honors for those times, respectively. With the addition of seven freshmen, the Seahawks will attempt to fill the void left by the graduation of Alexandra Tomlinson, an All-NEC second team honoree and the 2009 SAAC Student-Athlete of the Year.
Sixth-year head coach Patrick Gallagher will lead Saint Francis (PA) hungry to contend for its first ever conference crown. Last season the Red Flash posted five school records and posted 47 top-ten performances. This year, ten of those swimmers return and will be joined by seven new faces. Leading the returning veterans will be seniors Kristen Low (Mississauga, Ontario/Cawthra Park S.S.), Elise Merrill (Carlisle, PA/Big Spring), and Abi May (Pittsburgh, PA/Shaler) who placed third in the 400 IM (4:40.04), 100 backstroke (58.66) and 100 butterfly (59.24), respectively, at last year’s conference meet to earn All-NEC third team recognition. Without the loss of any medalists from last year’s squad and the return of sophomore Jessica Dunn (Bristow, VA/Seton School), who finished second as a rookie in the 200 backstroke (2:06.18) to earn a place on the All-NEC second team, the Red Flash have every right to be optimistic of their chances in 2009-10.
Sacred Heart and head coach Richard Ludemann, now in his fourth year, will look to junior captain Taylor Sullivan (Stoughton, MA/Ursline Academy) to be a force for the Pioneers this season. She anchored the 200 medley relay team that qualified for the ECAC Championships in 2009 where the quartet set a school record in the event. She also finished 10th in the 400 IM during the NEC championships. Another junior, Katie Marshall (Cumberland, RI/Saint Mary Academy-Bay View), was the only Sacred Heart swimmer to medal during the 2009 league event meet. She earned second place in both the 100 and 200 fly with times of 58.68 and 2:07.92, respectively. Adding five new swimmers to the mix will give the Pioneers added depth.
Mount St. Mary’s head coach Neil Yost returns for his fourth year at the helm, eager to improve upon last year’s sixth-place standing at the NEC Championships. The 2009-10 Mountaineers are a balanced team, sporting three swimmers from each class. Returning are senior captain Paige Chenet (Berwyn, PA/Conestoga) and classmate Maggie O’Connell (Hagerstown, MD/Homeschooled). Last season the pair paced a 200 medley relay quartet to a seventh place finish (1:57.08) at the NEC Championships. O’Connell also placed fifth in the 100 fly (59.83) during the event.
Following its first season competing at the Division I level, Bryant, along with seventh-year head coach Katie Cameron, will look to improve on its fifth place finish at the NEC championship meet in 2009. The Bulldogs anticipate the arrival of seven freshmen who will join an experienced group that includes eight seniors among its 23 team members. Among them is Jessica Looney (Goffstown, NH/Goffstown), who was named Swimmer of the Meet at the 2008 New England Championships and finished fourth in the 200 backstroke (2:11.16) at the 2009 NEC meet. Junior Jill Squillante (Sayville, NY/Sayville) placed fourth in the 100 backstroke (1:01.04) at the same event.
St. Francis (NY) head coach Brian Guidera enters his third season as he continues to rebuild the Terrier program. St. Francis took a major hit with the loss of standout diver Christina DeBianchi, who racked up four NEC Diver of the Week honors in the 2008-09 season and finished third in both the one and three-meter diving events at the conference championships. Senior Sonya Jaggernaught (Port of Spain, Trinidad/Notre Dame Convent) will compete in her final year with the Terriers after garnering a pair of NEC Swimmer of the Week selections last season. She also finished sixth in the 50 freestyle (24.86), shaving almost a full second off her 2008 championship time, and anchored another sixth place finish for the four-woman 200 freestyle relay.
The 2009-10 Northeast Conference Championships will be held on February 11-13 at Yale University in New Haven, CT.