Vassar’s swimming and diving team saw its first Liberty League matchup against Skidmore on Nov. 7, at home in the Kresge Pool, where both the men and women came out on top 167-114 and 175-109. Last season, the Brewers clinched a victory over Skidmore, pulling out a narrow win in the final event. Earlier this season, the Brewers faced their first opponent, a large NYU team, and both the men’s and women’s teams fell to the powerhouse. The women lost 199-87 and the men 204-64. However, the losses came not with strong performances, including two wins by sophomore Julia Cunningham in the 200 yard butterfly and 200 yard individual medley, and two strong times posted by sophomore Ian Quinn in the 100 yard butterfly and 50 yard freestyle races.
As both teams are getting their seasons going, there is much discussion of goals for 2015 VC swimming and diving. Senior women’s captain Lizzy Balter said in a written statement, “As a senior, I can honestly say that the team dynamic of this group is the best it’s been since I’ve been on the team. Our goal is to keep the momentum we’ve been building, and have this be a really exceptional season.” It seems that both the men and women are poised to do just that. Both teams are coming off of successful seasons. Quinn explained the Brewers’ success in 2014; “Last year we placed ninth, which was the highest we’ve ever placed. Last year, we had the best year we’ve ever had, definitely the best year we’ve ever had…We broke more than ten records on the men’s side and we got a lot of guys into the finals. So if we could place seventh or sixth this year, that would be huge.” Madison Carroll, a freshman from New Paltz, N.Y., shared similar hopes for the Brewers’ ability to continue the legacy of the program, saying in a written statement, “I hope that this year, VC swimming and diving will continue to build on the success of last season. As a freshman, I am really proud to be joining a program that last year broke numerous records and saw great success both in and out of the pool.” The Brewers hope to continue to build the momentum as the season progresses, “Traditionally, we have crescendoed into our last meet of the year, States,” said Balter, “This year, 6 weeks in, we have already seen broken records, lifetime bests, incredible swims, and we’re only going to keep building from here. We are trying to approach Liberty Leagues as a championship meet, and really emphasize our efforts at this midway point in our season.”
As far as individual athletes are concerned, both teams are in exciting positions according to Quinn; “Another big goal we have for the season is for everybody to swim fast and break all their best times, pretty much. We definitely are better than we were last year. Last year, we only lost one senior. This year, we picked up three freshmen and two new seniors who decided to come back. And we have a diver, which is great, because last year we only had one, this year we have one as well.”
This year, freshman Daniel Choi, a native of North Hollywood, Calif. and fly and breast swimmer, will join the team. VC has also scooped up freshman Kyle Gray from Cresco, Pa. who swims free, back and mid distance, as well as freshman Jonah Strand, a breaststroke swimmer from Woodstock, N.Y. Rafael Ricaurte, a senior from Astoria, N.Y., will serve as the men’s team diver. The women’s rookie lineup looks strong as well. In addition to Carroll, freshman Cali Corbett from Warrinton, Pa. will swim the free, as will fellow freshman teammate Teresa Stout from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Freshman Emily McDaniels will join the IM/back swimmers, coming out of Chapel Hill, N.C. Freshman and women’s diver Nora Kyrkjebo hails from Singapore.
VC swimming and diving knows exactly what it will take to find success in 2015: hard work. Carroll said, “These goals will be achieved by a continuation of the hard work and great attitudes that we have started the season with. We’ve been putting in a lot of time both in the pool and the weight room, and it’s exciting to have already seen some really great swims, and we are going to continue getting better and better.” Carroll continued to explain that focus seems to be key for the Brewers. “The focus of training so far this year has been on details. Every practice we are encouraged to latch onto a couple of race pieces, and make them exceptional for the whole practice. This sets us up well when we then transition from practice to competition.”
Quinn’s noted that the focus this season will be on competition. “Well, we’ve taken a much more serious approach to our training, I think,” he wrote. “And also our meets as well. For every meet we get ourselves pretty psyched up, we put the other team’s times up on the wall and around the pool. See what they can do, see what we can do. We think about races during practice,” he continued, saying, “We have really good competition, we’re in a really competitive league, so that drives us a lot. We always check the times of other schools, what they’ve been doing at their meets and stuff compared to what we do.”
Having healthy athletes will be essential to a good showing this year. Quinn elaborated, “We’ve been focusing a lot on recovery, so icing afterwards and heating before. A lot of making sure people who are injured get the proper rehab from the trainers. Last year, we got a lot of injuries throughout the season and it didn’t really let us pick up steam during the season, at the end we were all good, but in season we want to have a good record. We have to be able to stay healthy.” Gregory Cristina, a junior from Suffield, Conn., hopes to be able to persevere through injury. He commented, “I plan to achieve these goals by staying focused during practice and in the weight room and also maintain a positive attitude, despite any small injuries that may occur during the season.”
Another strength that VC swimming and diving will use to their advantage is the team chemistry they’ve built. Carroll said, “One of the strongest things that I think VC swim and dive has is our team dynamic. We all genuinely enjoy being around each other, and the support network that I already feel that I have is incredible. I think that dynamic has really contributed to the success of this program, because we push each other to give our best no matter what and that is so valuable.” Cristina agreed, noting that the incoming swimmers seem promising so far. “They all have great attitudes during meets and practices and fit in very well,” he wrote. Not only is the special team dynamic this season apparent to incoming athletes, but team leadership is also noticing. “Our greatest strength is the cohesive, motivated, and fun team we have this season,” said Balter. “A great team dynamic just makes every obstacle, be it a hard practice, tough opposition, etc. that much more manageable and rewarding.”
In the past, and this year is no exception, both teams have been undersized. “A weakness is that we are historically a smaller team than a lot of teams we swim [against],” said Balter, “Sometimes we simply don’t have the numbers to make us as competitive as some of our competition.” Vassar has to go toe to toe with teams of 30 or more athletes. With the women clocking in at only 17 and the men still lower at 13, their size can and has gotten them into trouble according to Quinn. “When we go up against a team with 30 or 40 guys, they can just fill guys into events that we don’t even have the manpower to put in. So they’re going to pick up points for that. Like last year, at our championship meet, we beat all the teams that we could beat, that we were capable of beating. So all the teams that were around our size, we beat. We couldn’t beat the other teams that had 30, 40 guys. We just can’t compete with them yet.”
The Brewers will see RPI on Nov. 15, followed by New Paltz on the 22, then they have a lull until they match up with Trinity in January. “Our next three Saturdays are going to be really exciting, with match-ups against Skidmore, RPI and New Paltz,” Madison said, “We’re going to have some tough races, but I am confident that we will be really well prepared for each of these meets, and there are definitely going to be some great swims and exciting outcomes.”