NAUGATUCK — After placing sixth at last year’s NVL championships, the Naugatuck girls swimming and diving team heads into a new season with a group of 22 swimmers.
The Greyhounds have one of the smallest teams — as far as numbers go — in quite some time at Naugatuck as they look to close the gap between defending league champion Sacred Heart and title contenders Holy Cross and Seymour.
The goal for the season is to learn how to succeed when facing of adversity, according to Naugatuck head coach Jim McKee.
“You can’t go into a meet against a team that’s clearly better than you and not perform,” McKee said. “You have to go out there and give it your best effort regardless of the score. Essentially you need to learn how to succeed in those difficult situations.”
The longtime coach, who has a combined 617 wins as coach of the Naugatuck boys swim team for 41 years and the girls team for 31 years, knows a thing or two about how to get the most out of maximum effort from his teams.
“The expectations are that we win more than we lose,” McKee said. “The goal is to continue to show progress in our times, and when the league championship comes around try and get as many kids into the top six.”
Naugatuck, which was last in the title hunt when the Greyhounds finished as NVL runner-up in 2012, will rely on the experience of five seniors: Stephanie Almeida, Meghan Messier and Jaimee Trumbley, the team’s three captains, and Katie Meyer and Elizabeth Tuscano.
Trumbley, Tuscano and Messier all placed in the top 20 in events at the NVL meet last year.
The junior class had several swimmers make a strong showing at last year’s league championship, including Abrianna Hasipi who finished in the top 20 in the 200 freestyle.
Juniors Maria Guimares, Francesca Spino and Brin Battisti were part of the seventh-place 200 medley relay team. Junior diver Katie Brown broke into the all-time top ten for the Greyhounds last year after finishing eighth in the NVL as a sophomore. Juniors Kendra Purcell, Faith Rawding, Sarah Rawding, Taylor Siefer and Julianna Scully, who was injured last year and missed NVLs, bring a wealth of experience to the lineup.
“We really missed Julianna last year when she got injured right before the NVLs,” McKee said. “She is back and we expect her to make an impact.
“Katie got on our all-time list last year, and if she doesn’t watch out Brin will knock her off. We are very strong in diving and the girls are loving that coach Jesse Cyr is back as they are getting better every day. We also have a new diver in sophomore Elizabeth Kilmer.”
McKee is also excited about some of his younger swimmers and what they bring to the team.
Sophomore Molly Kennelly finished fifth in the backstroke at last year’s league championship and swam with the sixth-place 400 relay team and the seventh-place 200 medley team. She finished the season by making the top 20 in the 100 backstroke at the Class M state championship.
Sophomore Emily Sarmiento was also part of the 200 medley squad at NVLs. Along with sophomores Maya Duplessis and Meghan Korowotny, the Greyhounds have some talented youth to drive the team forward. Freshmen Katelyn Fortney and Abbey Shugdinis are also part of the youth movement.
“Fortney is a club swimmer and will be doing a lot of the longer swims early on because she is in excellent shape,” McKee said. “There are always a good group of club swimmers, but for the most part they usually end up with our competitors, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart.”
“Molly is probably the best swimmer on the team,” McKee added. “The goal is to get her to the states in the backstroke. We will rely on her to make us competitive in multiple events.”
The Greyhounds will open the season on Sept. 15 when they take on Torrington at the Torrington YMCA. It will be a quick turnaround as Naugy will host St. Paul on Sept. 19.
“The attitude of the girls is very good,” McKee said. “They are swimming with form and doing their sets, but you can’t teach fast. It’s early in the season and sometimes they don’t attack the training the way they should. Whether we best anybody, we will soon find out.”