Previewing The MAAC Women's Swimming & Diving Championships

Feb. 16, 2004

2004 Women's Swimming and Diving MAAC Championship Preview

Over the last decade, three different women's programs have captured the MAAC team title. In 1993, 1994 and 1995 the Greyhounds of Loyola stood atop the podium. Despite the arrival of Marist and Rider, Loyola held off the new challengers to retain their crown at the 1996 championships. In 1997 the Red Foxes slipped past Loyola to begin their four-year hold on the trophy.

At the 1998 championships, Rider who had finished third the year before, pushed through Loyola by a scant 17 points. The close 63-point margin between the top three teams was the result of a battle that lasted well into the final day of competition and set a pattern for the next few years. The MAAC championships meets of 1999 and 2000 saw the same order of finish; Marist, Rider and Loyola.

There were big changes in 2001. After four years in Poughkeepsie, New York the MAAC moved the championships to a new site. The brand new Fitness and Aquatic Center at Loyola College got the nod. Opened in the fall of 2000, the eight lane pool with a separate diving well and seating for nearly 500 spectators was the ideal location for the meet. Rider University also found it the ideal location for an upset of the Red Foxes. In another close meet, the Broncs surged past Marist by 21 points and into the record book with their first MAAC title in swimming and diving.

A back-and-forth exchange took place over the next few years with Marist regaining the title in 2002 and Rider stealing it back at the 2003 championships. The Greyhounds jumped to the runner-up spot in 2002 after four years of third place finishes before dropping to their lowest finish ever, a fourth place in 2003. In only their fourth year of competition, surprising Siena rose to second place, having never finished higher than fifth.

With so many talented athletes spread across the conference, the fight for the title will be a hard fought one. Loyola, Siena, Marist and defending champions Rider should all be in the mix this year.

Here is a look at the women's competition, team-by-team.

After more than a decade of Top-3 finishes, the Greyhounds fell to fourth in 2003. A team of depth, Loyola College swimmers and divers stood on the awards stand only 15 times, gathering many of their points in the consolation finals. With butterflyers/IM'ers Betsy Mezick, Heather Territo and Lindsay Krauss gone due to graduation, the 'Hounds will rely on four veteran athletes to pull them through. All-around swimmer Lisa Davey grabbed silver and bronze in last year's individual medleys and fifth in the 200 breaststroke while sprinter Jayme Adams captured fifth-place points in the 50 and 200 freestyles and a fourth in the 100 free. Senior co-captain Allie Harakal swam to a sixth-place finish in the 100 breaststroke and scored consolation points in the 200 breaststroke.

On the boards, diver Erin Perry found her way to the podium with a pair of top eight finishes in her events. These athletes will need to have an excellent meet if the Greyhounds want their team to stand on the podium on the final night.

Loyola fans will look to the other team captain, Vicky Lindsay to lead additional Greyhounds to the award platform. Lindsay, who scored consolation points in the 100 and 200 butterfly last year, will team with fellow consolation finalists Melissa Birkenmeier (freestyle sprints) and Shannon Mahon (butterfly, backstroke) in their quest to make it to the championship finals. Sophomore Chelsea Brace, who missed the end of last season due to illness, returns and is expected to add to the 'Hounds point totals.

While their veteran athletes will provide leadership, if the Greyhounds are going to move up in the standings, they will do it on the depth of their freshman class. Breaststrokers Nori Skoda and Liz Chlebda lead the way in this strong group. Look for contributions from diver Megan Sterback, freestyler Jennie Zohorsky and all-around performer Michelle Ryan to bolster Loyola's fight to regain a Top-3 standing.

The Golden Griffins of Canisius College return to Baltimore with a desire to move up in the overall standings. With no points lost to graduation, the Griffs could give chase to Niagara, who finished only 15 points ahead of them last year. Those hopes will rest with senior Kellie Guth, the teams top scorer from a year ago. Guth grabbed an 11th and a 12th in the backstrokes in addition to a 15th in the 100 butterfly. Along with junior Megan O'Connor, whose 10th-place finish in the 200 backstroke represented the team's highest finish, they scored the bulk of the Griffin's individual points. Sophomores Jen Kentera (individual medley) and Jennifer Twarozek (sprint freestyle) and junior Melissa Trometer (breaststroke) all scored points last year and will be counted on to do the same this year. Freshman freestyler Jennifer Maddaluno, who gets better as the distance goes up, may be able to add points in the longer events.

The Fairfield University swimming and diving program fell just short of the Greyhounds in 2003; a extremely slim 7 point margin placing them in fifth. The Stags were hurt by graduation with distance freestyler Virginia Meade now gone from the line up. Meade gathered championship points with her seventh- and eight-place finishes in the 1000 and 1650 freestyle events in addition to her 11th-place finish in the 500 free and was the Stags No. 2 point scorer. The Stags will depend on three swimmers who each made at least one trip to the awards stand in 2003. Sprinter Kelly Steele lead her team with three top-eight finishes in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles while butterflyer Jamie Bivona and breaststroker Janet Early each got in once. Bivona scored in the 100 butterfly with her seventh place finish; Early also grabbed seventh in the 200 breaststroke.

The Gaels of Iona College hope to improve their 2003 standing of sixth place, where they were outpaced by Fairfield's 43-point margin. A deeper Iona squad could move up despite the loss of one their all-time top performers. The graduation of the versatile Aimee Bryers leaves the Gaels without one of their key point getters. During her career, Bryers won conference medals in the breaststrokes, the individual medleys and the distance freestyle events. Her double medal performance from last year (gold in the 400 individual medley, silver in the 500 freestyle plus a fourth place finish in the 1650) will most likely leave a void in the Gael's attack.

Breaststroker Jackie Fountaine will shoulder the responsibility of leading this year's team. Her 2003 performance, where she won silver in the 100 breaststroke and bronze in the 200 breaststroke and picked up a sixth in the 50 free, were second to Bryers. Expect her to team with freshman Melissa McGregor, who has recorded some Top-10 times in season, in grabbing a bunch of breaststroke points. Sophomore Alyssa Biedermann was a two time finalist last year in the backstrokes and won the consolation final in the 200 individual medley. Biedermann will look to move up to a medal place and lead freshman Kinda McGowan into the scoring round of the backstroke races.

Manhattan College relied on their relays for all their points at the 2003 Championships, but with an excellent freshman class, that all may change. With just two seniors to lead their young squad, the Jaspers will rely on the experience of butterflyer Molly Hogan and breaststroker Marguerite Mohan. Hogan and Mohan team with juniors Vanessa Conway (distance freestyle) and Marrisa Lowe (butterfly) and the remaining 14 freshmen and sophomores to comprise the largest Jasper squad in recent history. Of the returning crew, the best opportunity for individual scoring may rest with sophomore Lauren Sullivan who missed making the consolation final by the slightest of margins last year.

Freshman standout Courtney Arduini is probably the Jasper most likely to score individual points. A strong all-around swimmer, look for her to swim the individual medley and butterfly events. Arduini, who currently owns the 10th-fastest 100 butterfly time in the conference, may also be the one to lead the Jaspers in the relay events. Often finishing at the bottom in recent years, more relay points could push them higher in the team standings in 2004.

Marist College saw a coaching change this year. Long time men's coach Larry Van Wagner picked up the assignment to coach the women's team in addition to his men. The Red Fox women went 8-4 in their dual-meet season and should be ready to take a run at the crown. Although the Foxes lost a large number of athletes due to graduation, their departure may not be overwhelming. Only Courtney Milde scored a sizable portion of points with her seventh-place finishes in the 100 breaststroke and 400 individual medley and a sixth-place finish in the 200 breaststroke.

Senior Jennifer Meyer will look to improve on the three bronze medals she won last year in the 100 backstroke and the 50 and 100 freestyle. Junior Jenn Gelsomino also earned three medals with her third-place finish in the 200 individual medley and a pair of seconds in the 200 butterfly and the 400 individual medley. Classmate Sarah Mckinney grabbed a silver medal in the 200 freestyle and then revisited the podium in recognition of her fourth- and fifth-place finishes in the 500 and 100 freestyles

A large freshman class should help Marist in their attempt to pick up their sixth conference crown. A first-year squad of nine will be lead by breaststroker Lauren Malski. Malski, who has recorded some of the fastest times of the year in her specialty and leads the conference in the 100 breaststroke.

Last year's seventh-place team, Niagara, will try to break into the top half of the conference on the strengths of their returning individual gold medallist, Traci Liberi. With her win in the 100 freestyle, Liberi led the Purple Eagles in scoring at the 2003 championships. In addition to the 100 free, she stood on the awards stand two other times, finishing seventh in the 200 freestyle and earning the silver medal in the 50 free. A repeat performance could provide the energy needed by the Eagles.

Lost to graduation are Erica Sokowloski who earned championship points in the butterflys and Shannon Young who scored in the 50, 100 and 200 freestyles. The Purple Eagles will count on another strong conference meet from Karolina Bazylewicz who grabbed the last scoring spot in the 50 freestyle before finaling in both breaststrokes last year. Bazylewicz will be joined by breaststroker Katrina Heller, who took the No. 8 spot in the 100 and won the consolation heat of the 200. Heller's younger sister, Kristan will team with returnees Jen Gerenski (14th in the 200 individual medley), Danielle Hayes (15th, 100 backstroke) and Jody Pangburn (16th, 100 butterfly) as each tries to improve upon their 2003 individual finishes and boost their team's standing. Freshman Heather Link leads her class and hopes to score big in her specialty, the 100 and 200 backstroke.

Despite the graduation of one of the all-time top Rider swimmers, the Broncs remain strong. Melissa Michalov picked up three gold medals at the 2003 championships, breaking her own conference records in the 100 and 200 backstrokes and winning the 50 freestyle. Michalov had won the same three events at the 2002 meet, setting a conference record in the 50 freestyle in the process. Still in the fold to help defend the title are seniors Megan Huhn, Melissa Morrissy and Erin Haman; junior Briana Cohen and sophomores Kristen Enoch, Lisa Berg, Lindsay O'Shea, Jen Feenstra and Rose Brenner.

Earning individual gold medals in 2003 for the Broncs were Enoch in both breaststroke races, Megan Huhn in the 200 individual medley and Briana Cohen in the 200 butterfly. Cohen returned to the award stand to accept two more medals, bronze in both the 200 and 500 freestyles, while Huhn returned courtesy of her fourth-place finish in the 400 individual medley and a fifth in the 200 butterfly.

With all around depth and enough talent to grab a fair number of medals, the Broncs of Rider will look to repeat their title. A strong freshman class led by butterfly/freestylers Courtney Clark and Lauren Urbanski will help the effort.

The Saint Peter's College Peahens will have to work hard to gain a better place than last year when they finished at the bottom of the conference. After years of bottom half finishes the Peahens rose to one of their finest seasons ever in 2001. Unfortunately, that year's fifth-place finish was followed by a slip to seventh in 2002 before tumbling to a 10th-place finish last year. If senior Kelly Crampton can regain the form that brought her dual-conference gold medals (100 and 200 butterfly, 2002) and if she can get some help from veterans Tyra Russell (backstroke, sprint freestyle) and Jillian Welling (backstroke), the Peahens may be able to regain some of their past accomplishments.

The Saints of Siena have suffered some losses due to graduations. Gone is sprinter Martha Kroll, who finished fourth in the 50 and 200 freestyles and earned a silver medal in the 100 free. Distance swimmers Olga Kandaurova and Kelly Pangburn have both graduated. In the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyle events, Kandaurova found her way to the consolation finals while teammate Pangburn earned the gold medal in each.

Leading the Saints' campaign will be experienced competitors Kaitlin Krause and Dana Golino. In 2003 Krause won a gold medal in the 200 freestyle and finaled in the 100 and 200 breaststrokes. Golino took silver three times in the 100 butterfly and the 100 and 200 backstrokes. Repeat performances from these two talented sophomores will help Siena retain their position in the race for the trophy. Two other Saints who should help gather points are junior Christi Hunter and sophomore Shanna Allen. Hunter climbed the podium three times last year with her sixth, seventh and eight place finishes in the 400 individual medley, the 200 backstroke and the 200 individual medley. Allen made the trip twice for her efforts in the backstroke races.

As always, the relays should provide an exciting scoring opportunity for each of the teams. Last year Siena was able to lead the relay scoring with consistent Top-3 performances, highlighted by two gold medal efforts. The outcome might have been quite different had it not been for a few mistakes on the opening night. In the 200 freestyle relay, a Marist swimmer left early and the resulting disqualification cost the Red Foxes a possible 40 points. In the last event of the evening, the unthinkable happened for Marist when once again the referees noticed a premature start by one of the Marist women. The result of the two disqualifications was a loss of a possible 80 points. In their own separate disaster, Rider's 400 medley relay was disqualified on a techniqual mistake. Despite recording the fastest women's 400 medley relay in conference history, the Rider women would not see their names entered into the record book.

The same tightly contested action is expected for this year in the relays and with over 1,200 points being awarded in these five events, the outcome of the meet could very likely depend on their results. Look for the favorites, Rider and Marist to set the pace. While relay squads from Loyola, Siena and Iona could easily win while a surprise Top-3 finish may not be out of the question from Fairfield or Niagara. No matter who wins the relays, they promise to provide some of the most competitive and exhilarating moments of the entire meet.

Competition is scheduled to begin Thursday, Feb 19 with the qualifying heats at 10 am and the finals at 6:30 pm. The meet concludes with the crowning of the 2004 MAAC Champions at the evening's finals on Saturday, Feb 21. As in past years, a packed spectator's gallery is expected for what is sure to be an exciting meet. A proven venue, the Loyola College Pool, has been the site of a number of nationally ranked performances over the last two years. With a great crowd, enthusiastic athletes and the conference title on the line, the meet promises to be a fast one.

Tickets for the 2004 MAAC Championships are available at the gate on the day of each event. Prices are $4 for adult all-day pass and $1 for students and children.