The UMBC women’s swimming and diving team concluded the 2004-05 season, its second in the America East, with an 8-3 record and a third-place finish in the conference championships.
But Head Coach Chad Cradock expects even more of his squad his year, despite losing six seniors, including school record-holder Lindsey Prather and the versatile Jessica Prosen.
“This is one of the best ladies’ teams that UMBC has ever seen,” Cradock said. “Our women’s program has definitely turned the corner from last year. This incoming class will have an immediate impact. We’re so much stronger at the top. The team now needs to have the heart and the drive to bring home a conference championship. I think this year we have some real bright spots.”
Some of those bright spots include newcomers Meghan Sackett and Daniele Surkovich. Cradock believes both Sackett, a sophomore transfer from the University of Maryland, and Surkovich, a local freshman, have the potential to break both school and conference records in their first season at UMBC.
Cradock is also excited about the potential on the freestyle relays. “Our women’s freestyle relay is going to be the best I’ve seen since I’ve been here. It’s going to have a lot of excitement to it,” he said.
The coaching staff enters its second year together as a four-person unit. While Cradock is in his fifth year at UMBC and assistant coach Tom Himes begins his fourth season, assistant coach Chris Gibeau and diving coach Andrew Hastings are both back for their second year.
“It is nice to have a stable coaching staff that the returning athletes already know and feel comfortable with,” Cradock said.
Sprint Freestyle: Cradock looks for Surkovich to anchor the sprints, with strong contributions from sophomore Lindsey Engler, who broke the school 50-free record last season, and senior Elyse Gibson. Sophomore Carly Fitzpatrick and freshman Robin Klein should step up and make an impact, while junior Kristen Moorby and freshmen Christina Ng and Anika Theus should contribute as well.
Mid Freestyle: Senior co-captain Amber Harris placed fifth in the 500-free at the America East Championships. Junior Agnes Stanislawska is an extremely versatile swimmer who holds school records in both the 100- and 200-free and placed sixth in the 200 at AEC’s. Freshman Elisha Peregino should also be a factor, while junior Jesse Rowton and sophomores Erin Mathews and co-captain Lisa Robinson should also contribute.
Distance Freestyle: The Retrievers are very strong in the distance events. Sackett should lead the way with sophomore co-captain Rachel Lesslie, who was named 2005 America East Most Outstanding Rookie after winning the mile and placing fourth in the 500-free at the conference championships. Sohpmore Katrina Hubbard took the bronze in the mile at AEC’s and should pick up where she left off. Cradock also looks for freshman Sarah Aichele to come in and make an impact. Mathews and Robinson will also help out in the distance events.
Backstroke: UMBC also has a very strong backstroke unit, anchored by Stanislawska, Lesslie and Harris. Cradock also looks for strong contributions in the backstroke events from Moorby, Fitzpatrick, sophomore Mary Scott and freshman Brittany Bertoli.
Breaststroke: Despite graduating Prather, the school record-holder in both the 100- and 200-breast, the Retrievers have a lot of depth in the breaststroke events, but Cradock is looking for someone to stand out from the rest of the group. Some potential candidates include Stanislawska, who took bronze in the 200-breast at AEC’s last season, Klein and freshmen Tina Cantwell, Joy Wilde and Courtney White. Rowton will continue to contribute here as well.
Butterfly: Butterfly is another stroke where Cradock hopes someone can step up and take charge. Surkovich, Gibson, Engler, Scott and Peregino all could do so. Moorby, Bertoli and junior Amy Mensch will also contribute.
Individual Medley: Cradock believes the Retrievers will have a lot of depth in the IM events. The versatile Stansilawska took silver in the 200-IM at AEC’s last season and should pick up where she left off. Surkovich should also stand out in the IM’s. Hubbard, Cantwell and Wilde will also help out in these events.
Diving: The divers will be strong this year, as junior Ashley Houghton, a transfer from Pittsburgh, joins UMBC’s 3-meter record holder, Katie Spohnholz.
“We’re excited about this year,” Himes said. “We brought in another big freshman class, one that appears to be pretty good. If they reach their full potential, we should have a tremendous year.”
The season begins Oct. 22, when the Retrievers travel to Rider for their first dual meet. Other schedule highlights include defending America East champion New Hampshire, which is new to UMBC’s dual meet schedule; local rival Towson on Nov. 12; the George Mason Invitational Nov. 18-20; and East Carolina on Jan. 22. The America East Conference Championships are Feb. 16-19 in Boston.