NAUGATUCK — With a week to go before the start of the season, the Naugatuck girls swim team is hard at work preparing for the first meet.
Naugatuck head coach Jim McKee, who has coached the girls for 31 years, described his team as a work in progress this week as he stood poolside.
“I think it’s harder preparing for the girls season because a lot of these girls are not year-round swimmers and the first month is just trying to get into competitive shape,” McKee said. “We had a group of about 24 athletes, and in the course of the first few weeks some have left the team and some are getting through the aches and pains of preparing for the season.”
As difficult as it is to get ready for the season with such a short window of time, McKee has a way of getting the most out of his charges. Naugatuck more times than not seems to find itself in the conversation when it comes time to compete for the NVL title
This year may be a little more difficult than others. The Greyhounds, who finished sixth at last year’s NVL championship, only lost a few members from last year’s team to graduation, but they were go-to athletes.
Naugy will need to find someone to pick up the slack for two-time All-NVL swimmer Cara Rotatori, who finished fourth at NVLs in the backstroke, and Alexandra Silva, who finished sixth at NVLs in the breaststroke. Both were also integral parts of the fifth-place 400 freestyle relay squad and the seventh-place 200 medley team at the league championship meet.
“We lost a few talented swimmers but we do have some girls who gained a lot of experience and we are looking for them to lead the way of this relatively young team,” McKee said.
Leading the way this season will be senior captains Addison Best, Olivia Filanowski, Ashley Daymonde and Erin Brown. The Greyhounds suffered a loss when Brown was injured a few weeks ago and will be out for the season.
Best was All-NVL last season, finishing second in the 500 and fifth in the 200 at NVLs. Filanowski helped the relay squads finish fifth in the 400 freestyle and seventh in the 200 medley.
The Greyhounds will also have senior Vanessa Soares to look to for leadership.
Eight juniors and nine sophomores shows a team that is up and coming and the work-in-progress stage has only begun for these young Greyhounds.
Junior Elizabeth Tuscano, who finished 13th in the 200 IM and a 16th in the backstroke at NVLs, will be relied on to take on a bigger role this season. Stephanie Almedia, Meghan Messier, Katie Meyers, Jillian Ginty, Samantha Rodriguez and Amber Torres round out the junior class that will look to be productive for Naugatuck to stay competitive in the league.
Sophomores Katie Brown (diving) and Julianna Scully lead the sophomore class.
Brown made the top ten in Naugatuck history in diving last season, finished eighth in the NVL and qualified for the states.
Scully was part of the seventh-place 200 medley team at NVLs. Fellow sophomores Brin Battisti, Justes Cureton, Abrianna Hasipi, Taylor Siefer, Francesca Spino, Faith Rawding and Shara Rawding are looking to contribute, as well.
Three freshmen fill out the group and there are many spots to fill and assess with the season-opener bearing down on Naugatuck.
Freshmen Molly Kennelley, Meghan Korowotny and Emily Sarmiento are hopefuls who can make an impact.
“Molly is a very talented swimmer,” McKee said. “She has the potential to fill in at the backstroke position where Rotatori swam. She came from the club team and we are looking for her to be a bright spot for us.”
Naugatuck opens the season Sept. 16 at home against Torrington at 4 p.m.