Both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams got off to strong starts last weekend, winning their first meets against Holy Cross. The lady Pride, led by head coach John Taffe and diving coach Pete Avdoulos, defeated the Crusaders, 173-119. The men’s team easily won as well, 169-131.
After coming off another solid season last year, both teams have high hopes for the 2011-2012 season.
“I think we did a good job last year. Our end of the year, we kind of faltered a little bit,” senior co-captain Josh Ernst said. “So the plan this year is to keep it strong for the whole year.”
There is some stiff competition this year for Springfield, and many of them are familiar faces. Alongside the Pride is perennial powerhouse MIT. The Engineers are typically near or atop the conference year after year.
There are two other teams that Springfield will be paying close attention to as well.
“MIT has really strong swimmers. I would say that Coast Guard and Wheaton are probably the next two teams that are up there,” senior co-captain Jaclyn Van Waalwijk said.
“I think this year we’re really looking to compete with MIT and Coast Guard at the NEWMAC Championship,” Ernst said. “We’d like to knock Coast Guard out of that number-two spot in NEWMAC.”
Swimming and diving may also have the most demanding practice schedule of any Springfield College sport. Many teams have morning practices sometimes, but coach Taffe seems to have his athletes working extra hard.
“We have morning practice Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then as well in the afternoon everyday. Now that meets have started, it’s usually a meet every Saturday,” Waalwijk said.
Taffe is proud of his teams’ work ethic thus far this year.
“We do have a very demanding practice schedule, there’s no question on that. A normal week is 20 hours of practice, which is nine practices a week,” Taffe said. “I have to give them a lot of credit. They have great work ethic. We have 60 people on this team, and nobody misses a practice. Everybody’s here all the time.”
What makes each of these teams so impressive is that even though they were both so close to placing first in the NEWMAC Championship last year, they still looked at the season as a very successful one on the whole.
Before last year, the women’s team had won at NEWMACs 10 years in a row.
“Second place last year was one of the most memorable meets I’ve had here,” senior co-captain Meghan Sisson said. “We’re not really focusing on winning NEWMACS; it’s more about getting your personal best times, doing as well as you can at the end of the year, being a team and we have a really good group of girls to do that this year.”
The other important key to both teams successes is their incredible depth. While the men’s and women’s teams have strong upperclassmen, they also contain many younger athletes with great potential.
“I think every class has got contributors. With the seniors, from myself to Scott Mackstutis. In the juniors, we have Scott Peters, Nolan Manley and Tim Ramos,” Ernst said. “We have a strong sophomore class with Jason Scotto, another freestyler. Our freshmen class is really strong, in particular Kelly Dullard and Phil Murphy, as well as Hayden Cassidy.”
“We think we have one of the better freshmen classes that we’ve had in a long time. If they develop the way we hope they can, we think the team is better this year,” Taffe said.
Victor Barbosa may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org