PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's swimming and diving team begins the 2008-09 season on the road the next two weekends with consecutive trips to Wellesley, Mass.
The season debut will be this Saturday, Nov. 8, at the annual Betty Spears Relays, hosted by Wellesley College. The Panthers return to Wellesley for the first dual meet of the season on Saturday, Nov. 15, leading into the home opener against Regis College on Nov. 22 at the PSU Natatorium.
Plymouth State will conclude the semester with two more meets in December, the Little East Conference Championships on Dec. 6 and a home meet against Westfield State on Dec. 13. There are seven dual meets on the slate in January and February, two at home, leading into the New England Championships on Feb. 20-22, at North Dartmouth, Mass.
Led by 18th-year head coach Al Switzer (right), the Panthers have eight veterans back from last year's team that finished 13th out of 21 teams at the New England Championships.
2008-09 Panther Season Outlook
Coach Switzer is encouraged about the Panthers this season, with a solid group of newcomers joining the returnees, which include five swimmers who scored individual points at last year's New Englands.
"We have the potential for more depth and quality on this year's team than we've had in the last four or five years," said Switzer. "They are working hard in the preseason and we are anticipating a good year with this group."
Leading the contingent of returnees are junior school-record holders Chaz Sweeney (Methuen, Mass.) and Tracey Posnick (Sharon, Mass.). Sweeney set the PSU standard in the 50-yard backstroke last year en route to a third-place finish at the New England Championships, the top place for a PSU swimmer since 2005. Posnick owns school records in the 1,000-yard freestyle and the 1,650-yard freestyle, and scored points at the New Englands the last two years in the distance free events and 400-yard individual medley.
"Chaz already looks better in the water than at any point last season," said Switzer.
Senior Amanda Branch (Gray, Maine/Bonny Eagle) gives PSU a strong returning veteran in butterfly events, says Switzer. She scored points in the 100-yard and 200-yard fly at the New Englands last year. Freshmen Brittney Gondek (South Glastonbury, Conn.) and Nicole Brodeur (Claremont, N.H./Vermont Academy) will also contribute, especially in the 50- and 100-yard fly, and Posnick should see action in the 200 fly.
Sophomore Lindsay Graham (Framingham, Mass.) and senior Kaitlyn Milligan (Forestdale, Mass./Sandwich) lead the group of returnees in the breaststroke events. Graham was a point-scorer in the 200 breast at the New Englands last year. Freshman Brittanie Bradley (Scarborough, Maine) also brings excellent times to the team, according to Switzer, and junior newcomer Shari Weiss (Long Beach, N.Y.) could also swim breaststroke events.
Sweeney will be the top backstroker and will be joined by junior Elise Innis (Harpswell, Maine/Mt. Ararat) and freshmen Brodeur and Brittany Shortell (Ansonia, Conn.)
Posnick leads a solid group of Panther freestylers, a stroke that Switzer says will be a good mixture of veterans and newcomers. Sophomore Alison Rotondo (Cumberland, R.I.) should be in there in the distance events, and joined by freshmen Lara Gruner (Center Barnstead, N.H./Prospect Academy) and Shortell.
Brodeur may be the leading swimmer in the freestyle events. She is also very versatile, according to Switzer, and also capable of doing well in the butterfly, backstroke and I.M. Rounding out a potentially strong short freestyle group will be veterans Sweeney, Innis, and Milligan and freshmen Gondek and Bradley.
Others who could contribute in freestyle events include Weiss and sophomores Graham and Alison Thayer (Higganum, Conn./Haddam-Killingworth).
Individual medley events could have some solid depth, according to the coach, but the question remain as to who will emerge as the leader. Graham, Posnick and Branch all had excellent performances in the 400 I.M. at the New Englands, and Brodeur has already recorded times that will challenge PSU's school records.
The Panthers have three freshman divers that are showing solid potential in Nora Regan (West Hartford, Conn./Northwest Catholic), Devin Silverthorne-Lillie (Newport, N.H.) and Claire Tierney (Norwich, Vt.)
"They will take some time to develop," said Switzer, "but they have the athleticism, strength and determination to do well. I expect them to become very good divers."
Switzer summarized the team outlook by saying, "the potential is there. The key to a solid season is for the team to stay healthy and injury-free. I am very excited about the coming season."
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