Oct. 12, 2006
Center Valley, Pa.- The Colgate women's swimming and diving team was picked to finish second by just three points in the 2006 Patriot League preseason poll, which was released by the league on Thursday, Oct. 12. The poll was voted on by the league's coaches and sports information directors.
The Raiders were edged out of the top spot by Navy, who received 87 points and seven first-place votes, while Colgate received 84 points and six first-place votes. The other team voters believe will be in contention for the title is four-time defending champion Bucknell, who finished third with 83 points and three first-place votes.
Coming off one of the best seasons in school history, the Colgate women's swimming and diving team will be looking to build on its success and take the next step: a Patriot League championship.
The Raiders will again rely on sophomores Beverly Walker, Lisa Marchi, and Emily Murphy, each of whom played a key role during the 2005-06 campaign by winning a combined six individual events at the conference championship meet, as well as each being a part of four winning relays. The team should also be slightly deeper this season, which will provide a boost at meets such as the Patriot League Championship, where numbers are an advantage.
"We don't have a roster as big as some of our opponents," head coach Stephen Jungbluth said. "Our girls know that we are always going to be considered underdogs, but every one of them wants to win, and that is going to be our goal this season."
The Raiders have improved their strength of schedule significantly this year in hopes of preparing themselves for the postseason. In addition to perennial rival Syracuse and the usual tough slate of Patriot League meets, Colgate has added Penn, Boston University, and UMass to the schedule. The team will also travel to the University of Maryland for a three-day meet which will be attended by several of the top teams in the country.
"We have definitely increased the strength of our schedule this year," Jungbluth said. "Penn absolutely will be a strong challenge; they're a good program and will have a good team this year. And, after defeating Syracuse by one point last season, I imagine that they are going to be gunning for us this year, so that should be another good test.
"With the increased strength of schedule and the higher expectations placed on our shoulders after last year's success, the team will need stalwart leadership from our captains, Keriann Fitzsimons and Leslie Petsoff."
Though the freestyle is perhaps the Raider's deepest event in the sprints, they will be looking for new talent to emerge in the distance events.
Chrissy Zaika, who was the conference champion in the 50 free and finished third in the 100, will return in the spring to provide a boost for the team.
"Chrissy's return to the team will be critical to the team's chances of taking another shot at a conference title," Jungbluth said. "In addition to her talent in the pool, she is one of the swimmers that many of the girls look to for additional leadership."
Marchi and classmate Ashley Bottger will also be key contributors in the freestyle events. Marchi won the 100 free and took second in the 200 at the Patriot League meet last season, and is one of the top swimmers in the conference in the 500 freestyle. Bottger placed fourth in the 100 and had a strong finish in the 200, recording a close second in the consolation final, and will be looking to take the next step this season.
Highly-touted freshman Kate Murphy is expected to provide an instant impact in the freestyle events.
In the distance events, rookie Karen Baker will likely be looked to as the heir to Amy Cole, the top distance freestyler on the team last season who graduated in May. Jungbluth will also be looking for other swimmers to step up and help fill the void left by Cole in the distance events.
Though Colgate does not have much depth in the backstroke, its top two swimmers are among the best in the conference.
"We have Beverly Walker and Colby Seamans," Jungbluth said. "Colby has been rock solid at every meet. They are two of the top backstrokers in the conference, and I expect them to make significant contributions in those events. After that, we're going to see if one or two of our first-years can develop."
The Raiders have both talent and depth in the breaststroke. Leading the charge will be Emily Murphy, who was ranked in the top 50 in the country at the end of her freshman season, and already holds a number of school records.
Juniors Kacy Reams and Magdaleno Mango are consistently among the best in the conference, and will push Murphy for the team's top spot.
Freshmen Alaina Sullivan and Caitlin Curran have tremendous potential as well, leading Jungbluth to predict that they could be some of the top breaststrokers in the conference by the end of their rookie season.
"If you look at the total times across the conference last year, and what we have right now with Murphy, Reams, Sullivan, Curran, and Mango, we already have five girls with times that would place them in the top 10 in the conference," Jungbluth said. "We are really deep in this event, and it's going to be a significant strength for us."
Emily Murphy returns as the defending conference champion in the 200 IM, and Seamans returns as Colgate's top IMer at the 400-yard distance. In addition, Jungbluth believes that several freshmen may be able to help out the team in this event. Reams will also be counted on to contribute in this event as she has scored points in the 200 in each of her first two seasons.
The butterfly should be another strength for the team, and will have perhaps the most experienced swimmers in any event.
Co-captains Fitzsimons and Petsoff will both be big contributors, as will junior Caitlin Grant. Melanie Homoki, who swam in other events for the sake of the team at times last season, should also help out the Raiders as she returns to her comfort zone. The coaches also believe that several freshmen will be able to make an immediate impact in their rookie seasons.
The most dominant events for Colgate at last season's Patriot League Championship meet, the relays should continue to be strong in the upcoming season.
The Raiders won all five relay events last spring, becoming the first team in the league to sweep the relays since 1995. Colgate's relays also set three conference records, and every swimmer from those teams will be back in Hamilton this year.
With the depth and talent that the team has returning for the 2006-07 season, it could be another historic year of relays for Colgate.
After graduating several key divers from last year's team, the Raiders will again be looking for the next group to step up under the tutelage of long-time diving coach Matt Leone. Colgate's most experienced returner is Gretchen Swarr, who placed in the top eight in the conference last season and will be looking to improve even further in 2006-07.
"We're not as experienced in diving as we were last season," Jungbluth said. "But knowing Matt he's probably going to put three girls in scoring position for us, so I'm confident that we'll be ok there."
The Raiders took second at the Patriot League Championship meet last season by the slimmest margin in conference history. With very few losses to graduation and an extra year of experience for their core group of swimmers, the Raiders appear to be poised to finish what they started last season and bring the league trophy back to Colgate.
2006 Patriot League Women's Swimming and Diving Preseason Poll
1. Navy (7), 87
2. Colgate (6), 84
3. Bucknell (3), 83
4. Army, 54
5. Lafayette, 46
6. Lehigh, 42
7. American, 38
8. Holy Cross, 14
NOTE: First-place votes in parentheses.