PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new women's swimming and diving season gets underway at Plymouth State College this weekend when the Panthers take to the pool at the annual Betty Spears Relays in Wellesley, Mass., hosted by Wellesley College.
The Panthers are one of five teams competing Saturday (Nov. 7) in the one-day meet, beginning at 1 p.m.. Numerous events are held in both swimming and diving, giving the teams plenty of early season action. PSC competes in the first dual meet a week from Saturday (Nov. 14) at Westfield State before the home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 18, against Salem State at the PSC Natatorium (6:00 p.m.).
Led by eighth-year head coach Al Switzer, PSC is hoping for another winning season. The Panthers have registered six straight winning seasons, posting a 48-13 record in that span, and are coming off a 9-2 campaign in 1997-98. Plymouth State always sends a solid contingent to the New England Division III Championships, and is on the verge of qualifying one or two individuals for the NCAA Championships.
PSC will have three home meets before the holiday break, and three more in January. The New England Championships are hosted this year by Bowdoin College.
"There are exciting possibilities ahead for PSC," said Switzer, who coached the University of Maine men to a pair of Division I New England championships before coming to Plymouth State. "A number of last year's swimmers and divers return for this season, although we suffered the usual losses to graduation. With considerable swimming experience among both the returnees and newcomers, we are optimistic about the season. The key could be how quickly the less-experienced group improves to provide depth in every event. The veterans should all perform well, and the 1998-99 season should be a successful one."
PSC will have to fill spots in almost every event, as graduation took several key individuals. Kathy Boyd, now an assistant coach, was a school-record holder in diving, butterfly and I.M. Backstroke record-holder and sprint freestyler Danielle Paturzo is also gone, along with sprinter Rebecca Ritchie and diver Gail Sweeney.
The Panthers should be strong this season in freestyle events, both individual and relay, led by school record-holders Meaghan Buckley (Haverhill, MA) and Christa Smith (North Yarmouth, ME). Buckley can dominate in the sprints, having finished in the top six in New England in both the 50 and 100. Smith, the team captain, should lead the team in her specialty, the distance free. Switzer will look to juniors Sandy Twaddell (Jaffrey, NH) and Chrissi Crow (Chelmsford, MA) in the middle distances, and freshmen Amy Bernier (Bristol, CT) and Katie Johnson (Quincy, MA) in the sprints. Freshmen Andrea Girolamo (Dracut, MA) and Allison Bregy (Camden, ME) can fill in at any freestyle distance.
Switzer expects Christa Smith and junior Joyce Mailhot (Lewiston, ME) to pace the Panthers in the backstroke events. Mailhot is coming off an excellent championship last year, according to Switzer. Newcomers Bernier, Bregy and Julia Larsson (Varberg, Sweden) should add quality and depth to the backstroke events.
Butterfly could be an interesting event, according to Switzer. Any of three freshman, Bernier, Bregy and/or Girolamo, could also fill butterfly lanes for PSC.
Girolamo should take over as the team's top breaststroker, and can perform well at any distance. Junior Aimee Cormier (Milford, ME) has the capability of being a solid back-up. The depth in breaststroke events, however, is one of Switzer's question marks.
The coach has a number of options in the I.M. events, from veteran Chrissi Crow to newcomers Bregy, Girolamo and Larsson.
Diving, which has been a strength for PSC over the years, should again be solid. Junior Sarah Lagasse (Haverhill, MA), a school record holder on 3-meter, is back to lead the group. She provides excellent strength on both boards. Lagasse is joined by sophomore Chrissy Sullivan (Billerica, MA) and newcomers Amy Thibeau (Newton, NH) and Suzanne Lassonde (Concord, NH). The progress of the newcomers will be a key, according to Switzer.
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