The Simmons Swimming and Diving team will open their 2011-2012 season this Saturday against Westfield State College and are looking to build upon their momentum from last season. After a disappointing first half of the 2010 season, the Sharks refocused during a mid-season training camp and were unstoppable for the remainder of the season, culminating in a Great Northeast Athletic Conference Championship.
The Sharks lost three key contributors to graduation, Backstroke and Freestyle superstar Virgina Bette, who set a GNAC record in the 100 Backstroke and school records in the 200 and 400 Free Relay, Butterfly sprinter Nellie Jackson, who had five individual wins in the 50 Fly last season alone, and diver Amanda Dirksmeier, who accumulated 19 first-place finishes during her senior season and was the only Shark to earn All-NEISDA honors.
Filling their shoes are returning sophomores Amy Davis (Southbury, Conn.) and Jen Collins (Trumbull, Conn.) and junior Molly Bohannon (Westbrook, Conn.). Davis will be pivotal for the Sharks in the Butterfly and Sprint Freestyle, scoring 199 individual points during the 2010-2011 season and making 9 New England cuts, which showed her versatility and competitiveness.
Collins set a new school record in the 100 Free last February, despite missing most of second semester due to injury. She posted the team's fastest times in the 50, 100 and 200 Free last season, and is expected to lead the Sharks in the sprint freestyle events as well as rank in the top-tier of New England Swimmers overall.
Bohannon will be looked to primarily as a Butterfly specialist, after using last season to debut her knack for distance freestyle. She will be a top competitor for the Sharks this season.
Losing their top diver to graduation, the Sharks will look to sophomore Lea Monahan (Avon, Mass.) to fill Dirksmeir's big shoes. Monahan is committed to working her way to the top, emulating her predecessor's path.
"I am excited to see what our team can do this season. Our returning athletes have demonstrated their commitment and passion for the sport and they are paving the way for our first-years," said Coach Williams.
Adding depth to the Sharks this season is talented rookie Chloe Davis (Merrimack, N.H.), a backstroke and freestyle specialist, who has the experience, talent and determination to be a major asset to the team. Joining Davis are first year sprinters Hillary Wong (Quincy, Mass.), Joleigh Ferro (Pittsfield, Mass.), and Nicole Eskenazi (Goleta, Calif.) who will each contribute in rounding out strong relays and giving the sprinting field some depth.
The team and individual goals that the team has set for the 2011-2012 season are aggressive but achievable and the Sharks are excited to step up their training to meet their own expectations and are eager to defend their GNAC Championship title.
"We have tremendous leadership this season, in many different forms, but specifically with our Captains, Steph Bitzas (Westfield, Mass.) and Suzie Quinlan (Needham, Mass.). Both women make Simmons swimming a priority and their excitement is contagious among their teammates," said Williams.