PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's swimming and diving season officially gets underway this Saturday, Nov. 3, when the Panthers travel to Wellesley, Mass., for the annual Betty Spears Relays, hosted by Wellesley College.
PSU will begin the dual meet season against Wellesley a week later, Saturday, Oct. 10, at the PSU Natatorium (12:00 p.m.). It is the first of four dual meets this semester, which also includes the Little East Conference Championship meet on Saturday, Dec. 1.
The Panthers have five more dual meets on the slate in January and February, three at home, leading into the New England Championships on Feb. 15-17, at North Dartmouth, Mass.
Led by 17th-year head coach Al Switzer, the Panthers have 15 veterans back from last year's team finished ninth out of 22 teams at the New England Championships.
2007-08 Panther Season Outlook
Coach Switzer (right) is optimistic about the Panthers this season, with a large contingent of returning swimmers and divers combined with a good group of newcomers. Switzer feels this year's team will be a fairly well balanced squad.
"The returnees from last year look much stronger this year, and we have a large group of them," said Switzer. "They are working hard and are excited about the season and looking forward to doing a good job."
Switzer points out that the Panthers will have to overcome the graduation of two key members of last year's team - New England three-meter diving champion and school-record holder Danielle DeStefano and two-year team captain and backstroke record-holder Cait Anton.
"We'll look to others on the team to help fill those voids," said Switzer.
Coach Switzer indicates that the Panthers should have both quality and depth in freestyle events, led by sophomores Caitlin Little (Scituate, Mass.) and Tracey Posnick (Sharon, Mass.). Little placed fifth at the New England championships in the 50 free and 12th in the 100 free and leads the Panthers sprinters, while Posnick paces the distance freestylers after bringing home fourth place in the 1,650 free and sixth in the 1,000 free and the New Englands, setting school records in both events.
Others who could contribute in the freestyle events include senior Christina DiGiacomo (Meriden, Conn./Platt), who was All-New England in 2006 in the 100 free, sophomores Elise Innis (Harpswell, Maine/Mt. Ararat) and Chaz Sweeney (Methuen, Mass.) and junior Kaitlyn Milligan (Forestdale, Mass./Sandwich). The top newcomers look like freshmen Alison Thayer (Higganum, Conn./Haddam-Killingworth) and Molly Maloney (Hampton, N.H./Winnacunnet).
Posnick and DiGiacomo will be supported in the middle and distance free events by senior captain Rachel Loan (Methuen, Mass.), juniors Laura Bowker (Chelmsford, Mass.) and Katherine Boynton (Burnt Hills, N.Y./Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake), and freshman Alison Rotondo (Cumberland, R.I.)
Sweeney is one of the top Panther returnees after a solid rookie campaign that included a seventh place finish at the New Englands in the 50 backstroke. Coach Switzer says she should continue to develop in the 100 and 200 back events. Junior Christina Labriola (Westerly, R.I.) provides a complement to Sweeney as well.
Junior Amanda Branch (Gray, Maine/Bonny Eagle) and Caitlin Little lead the returnees in butterfly events. Rotondo is expected to contribute as well, and junior Mindy Martin (Malden, Mass.) brings experience to the 50 and 100 distances.
The breaststroke events could be the strongest they've been in recent years, according to Switzer. Milligan showed vast improvement last year and should be ready for a good season. Posnick could also be called upon, says the coach, and newcomers Lindsay Graham (Framingham, Mass.) and Thayer will also help out.
Individual medley events are well covered by Posnick, Graham, Branch and Thayer.
Senior Kate Marrie (Swampscott, Mass.) and sophomore Nicky Hamel (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) gives PSU a pair of veterans in the diving events. Marrie returns after a year's absence and Hamel continues to improve in her second year after making the move to diving from gymnastics.
"We have a good group of people, and depth in almost every event," says Switzer. "With some help from the new people, the 2007-08 season could be another strong one."
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