PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The first of Plymouth State University's winter sports gets underway on Saturday, Nov. 4, when the Panther women's swimming and diving team travels to Wellesley, Mass., for the annual Betty Spears Relays, hosted by Wellesley College.
PSU will make a return visit to Wellesley the following Saturday, Nov. 11, for the annual dual meet against the Blue. The home opener at the PSU Natatorium is Saturday, Nov. 18, against Regis College (1 p.m.) The remainder of the first semester schedule includes the annual Little East Conference Championships meet the first Saturday in December, and a home dual meet against Westfield State on Saturday, Dec. 9.
PSU has six more dual meets on the slate in January and February, two at home, leading into the New England Championships on Feb. 16-18, this year in Durham, N.H.
Led by 16th-year head coach Al Switzer
(right), the Panthers have a roster of 23 women, including
13 veterans from last year's team that finished with a 4-6 record
and placed 15th at the New England Championships.
2006-07 Panther Season Outlook
Coach Switzer is optimistic about this year's team, both in terms of quality and depth. There's a solid nucleus of veterans and a versatile group of newcomers.
"Although some questions still need to be answered, such as depth in butterfly and breaststroke, the early season outlook looks very positive," says Switzer. "This team is stronger and deeper than others of recent years."
Senior captain Cait Anton (Woolwich, Maine/Brunswick), the school record holder in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke, leads the group of returnees. Other solid returning veterans who had strong performances last season include junior Christina DiGiacomo (Meriden, Conn./Platt), who earned All-New England honors in the 100 free, junior butterflier Lindsay Osborne (Cedar Falls, Iowa), sophomore butterflier Amanda Branch (Gray, Maine/Bonny Eagle), sophomore freestyler Trista Garrity (Saco, Maine/Thornton Academy), senior breaststroker Katie Bouffard (Essex Jct., Vt.), and senior All-New England diver Danielle DeStefano (Centerville, Mass./Barnstable).
PSU should have plenty of depth in all freestyle events, according to Switzer. DiGiacomo leads a strong contingent in the 100- and 200-yard events, a group that includes Osborne and Garrity and freshmen Caitlin Little (Scituate, Mass.), Erika Young (Lynnfield, Mass.), Tracey Posnick (Sharon, Mass.) and Elise Innis (Harpswell, Maine/Mt. Ararat). Anton or sophomore Laura Bowker (Chelmsford, Mass.) could also fill in. Distance events will be covered by DiGiacomo, Osborne, Branch and Posnick, with support from junior Rachel Loan (Methuen, Mass.), sophomores Katherine Boynton (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), Kaitlyn Milligan (Forestdale, Mass./Sandwich) and Jessica Booth (Plaistow, N.H./Timberlane), and freshmen Lauren Passariello (Saugus, Mass.) and Nicki Ramberg-Pihl (Rumney, N.H./Goshen Central H.S.-N.Y.)
Anton gives PSU a solid threat in all backstroke events, and according to Switzer, the Panthers should have more depth behind Anton this year. Passariello, sophomore Christina Labriola (Westerly, R.I.), and freshmen Chaz Sweeney (Methuen, Mass.) should help make backstroke a strong event for PSU.
Osborne and Branch give PSU solid veterans in the butterfly events, and will be supported by freshmen Little and Young and sophomore Mindy Martin (Malden, Mass.) Strengthening the depth in the distance fly events is one of the team's challenges, according to Switzer.
The breaststroke events are a question mark in the preseason, according to Switzer. Senior Katie Bouffard (Essex Jct., Vt.) returns to lead the group, but newcomers will be called upon from there, says Switzer. Posnick can do the job, and Switzer indicated that Ramberg-Pihl could become the strongest of all.
Switzer has many options in the I.M., led by Anton, Posnick, Branch and Passariello.
DeStefano returns to lead the Panther divers. She placed third on one-meter and second on three-meter at New Englands last year and will again be a tough competitor. Freshman Nicky Hamel (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton), a former gymnast, should develop rapidly and contribute in the diving events.
"We have more returning depth across the board than in recent years," says Switzer. "Barring injuries and/or sickness, this should be an exciting and successful season."
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