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Lady Saxons have solid mix of experience and youth
10/23/09

ALFRED, NY — The Alfred University women’s swimming and diving team will count on several proven veterans and talented newcomers in 2009-10.

This year’s Lady Saxons have but one senior ¬— freestyler Meghan Jones (Beaver Falls, NY/Beaver River)— and head coach Brian Striker looks forward to developing his swimmers and having them perform well in dual meets and at the state championships. “We haven’t had a lot of depth in past years, but now we will have two or three swimmers in each event who can have an impact at dual meets,” he said.

Nine returnees, led by junior freestyler Sarah Blair (Auburn, NY/Auburn), and nine freshman will try to help the Lady Saxons improve on a 3-8 dual-meet record (1-4 Empire 8) and 12th-place finish at the New York State Women’s Collegiate Athletic Association (NYSWCAA) championships last season.

Blair has been one of Alfred’s best and most consistent swimmers over the last two seasons. After placing 15th and 19th, respectively, in the 100-yard and 50-yard free at the 2008 state meet, Blair took fourth in the 50 free, 13th in the 100 free and 16th in the 100-yard breaststroke at the 2009 state meet. Her time of 24.62 seconds in the 50 free preliminaries broke a 20-year old school record; she would top that with a 24.30 in the finals.

“Sarah really made good progress at states,” Striker said. “We consistently rely on her in sprint freestyle and when we need to, we can plug her into the breaststroke and she does well. I expect her to do great things for us this year.”

Blair is far and away the top returning scorer in dual meets from a year ago, when she was the team’s top swimmer with 12 dual-meet wins among 22 top-three finishes. But she’s not the only key veteran on the team. Junior Calista Merritt (Conesus, NY/Livonia) was fourth in dual-meet scoring and had three wins among her 11 top-three finishes. Aside from Blair, Merritt is the only returnee to have scored in last year’s state meet (24th in the 1,650-yard freestyle).

Other top returnees include Jones and sophomores Maggie Callesano (Gansevoort, NY/Saratoga) (breaststroke/individual medley) and Donna Hoops (Geneseo, NY/Geneseo) (backstroke).

“Jones is very versatile. She can swim the fly, back and free. We hope she’ll wrap up her career with some of her best times,” Striker said. “(Hoops) will be one of our top backstrokers and we’ll also count on her to swim the middle-distance freestyle events.”

The Lady Saxons will be helped by the healthy return of Callesano, who was enjoying a fine freshman campaign — one win, four runner-up finishes — when her season was ended by a knee injury after three dual meets. She returns as the top swimmer in individual medleys and as one of the top breaststrokers. “Maggie has the potential to do some great things,” Striker said.

Hoops had 12 top-three finishes in dual meets, including a pair of wins; Asmo had; and Jones had five top-threes, including one win. Hoops, Jones, Merritt, and Blair were all key members of Alfred’s relay teams, which will only be strengthened by Callesano’s return.

Also returning are junior Cailin Asmo (Johnson City, NY/Johnson City) (butterfly/freestyle) (one win among her six top-three finishes in dual meets last year); sophomores Julie Dalbey (Schenectady, NY/Schenectady) (freestyle), Julie Slattery (Binghamton, NY/Seton Catholic) (freestyle/breaststroke), and Laura Smith (Pine Island, NY/Warwick Valley) (diving). Slattery and Dalbey scored in 10 and four individual races, respectively, in dual meets, while Smith had a pair of runner-up diving finishes.

Newcomers include freshmen Kalla Barranco (Cortland Manor, NY/Hendrick Hudson) (freestyle), Julie Dzikowski(Dansville, NY/Dansville) (freestyle), Katie Ganley (Syracuse, NY/Westhill) (breaststroke), Eryn Matich (Johnson City, NY/Johnson City) (backstroke/butterfly/freestyle), Tracy Miller (Auburn, NY/Auburn) (distance free/fly), Eda Pallumbi (Windham, ME/Cheverus) (freestyle), Nicole Ramos (Freeville, NY/Dryden) (freestyle), Shelby Remington (Gainesville, NY/Letchworth) (backstroke/freestyle), and Kylie Smith (Abington, PA/Abington) (diving).

“We have a good, solid freshman class. They’ll allow us to fill up each meet and be competitive,” Striker said. “Some will be key players on this year’s team, and overall this class will help us build a very strong foundation.”

Striker is optimistic his team will make strides this season, a view that is shared by the team. “The atmosphere on the deck is as good as it’s been. Hopefully we can build that into something special,” he said.

Striker is tempering his expectations for the team with the realization his swimmers and divers will need time to grow and develop.

“We’re such a young team. We’ll need to work on getting comfortable in meet situations and growing as athletes and as a team,” he said. “Our goal is to move up at the state level. We’re looking first to improve, gain some experience and be more competitive.”