PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's swimming and diving season opens this Saturday when the Panthers travel to Wellesley, Mass., for the annual Betty Spears Relays, hosted by Wellesley College.
The Panthers will make their home debut next Saturday (Nov. 12) at
the PSU Natatorium, hosting Wellesley in a dual meet (1:00 p.m.) in
the only home contest of the first semester. Plymouth State also
competes against Regis, Salem State and Westfield State in dual
meets before the semester break, as well as the annual Little East
Conference Championship meet the first Saturday in December.
PSU will be at home for four of the six dual meets in January and February, leading into the New England Championships at Bentley College on Feb. 17-19. Led by 15th-year head coach Al Switzer (right) and 16th-year assistant Deb Link, the Panthers have a roster of 22 women, including 10 veterans from last year's team that finished 11th out of 22 teams at the New England Championships.
"We have a good nucleus from last year's team returning," said Coach Switzer. "The team will have more depth in most events, with several events showing considerably more strength."
The group of swimming returnees is led by junior captain Cait Anton (Woolwich, Maine), a school record-holder in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke. She set the records her freshman year and lowered them last season, and placed in the top seven in all three backstroke events at the 2005 New Englands, including a runner-up finish in the 200.
Joining Anton in backstroke races this season will be freshman Christina Labriola (Westerly, R.I.), who really blossomed last year as a high school senior, according to Switzer. Freshmen Ayla Van Clief (Saco, Maine), Katherine Boynton (Burnt Hills, N.Y.), and Jessie Maihos (Salem, N.H.) will also help out.
Freshmen Andrea Cabezas (Quito, Ecuador) and Amanda Branch (Grey, Maine) and sophomore Lindsay Osborne (Oak Ridge, N.C.), all newcomers, should give PSU one of its top butterfly line-ups in recent years, says Switzer, with freshman Mindy Martin (Malden, Mass.) joining in the shorter races.
The Panthers have plenty of depth in all freestyle distances, according to Switzer. Sophomore Christina DiGiacomo (Meriden, Conn.) and much-improved senior Kristen Mulcahey (Pawtucket, R.I.) will lead a group in the 50, 100 and 200-yard distances, a contingent that includes freshmen Trista Garrity (Saco, Maine), Laura Bowker (Chelmsford, Mass.), Van Clief, Maihos and Martin.
Returning veterans in the middle and long distance events are sophomore Rachel Loan (Methuen, Mass.) and senior Stephanie Gillaspie (Derry, N.H.). Several of the newcomers can also contribute in this area, according to Switzer, including Branch, Boynton, Cabezas, and Osborne.
The breaststroke events are a question mark in the preseason, according to Switzer. Junior Katie Bouffard (Essex Jct., Vt.), the top returning breaststroker, is recovering from shoulder surgery. She will be a big factor if she can return to top form. The Panthers also have seniors Abbey Pellenz (Manchester, N.H./ Central) and Kristen Berry (Center Harbor, N.H.) and junior Kristen Childs (Madbury, N.H.) for depth.
Switzer has many options in the I.M., led by Anton, Bouffard, and Mulcahy among the returnees and Cabezas and Osborne from the newcomers.
Junior Danielle DeStefano (Centerville, Mass.) and sophomore Kate Marrie (Swampscott, Mass.) are solid returnees to the diving events. They both made great improvements last season and have started very strongly this year, giving PSU strength on both boards. They are joined by freshman Ashley Neagle (Chester, N.H.), who looks to contribute this season.
"There are far fewer holes in the line-up from a year ago," says Switzer. "How well the team does will depend a great deal upon the development of the new additions to the squad. I am excited and I look forward to a successful and fun season."
-- 30 --