Depth, diversity to decide NVL supremacy in the pool

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By Ken Morse, Citizen’s News

Naugatuck’s Sydney Connolly does the butterfly while swimming the 200 individual medley during a meet against St. Paul on Oct. 15 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

There are a lot of accomplished swimmers in the Naugatuck Valley League, but depth and diversity will rule the day when teams lay it all on the line for a championship.

The NVL swim trails are scheduled for Oct. 30 at Kennedy. The diving championship is set for Nov. 3 at Watertown, followed by the swim finals Nov. 6 at Kennedy.

Woodland enters NVLs with a perfect 11-0 mark and the frontrunner for the league title. The Hawks, who have won two of the last three NVL championships, have a deep and flexible squad.

Seniors Kyla Behrle and Brooke Reilly and juniors Molly Kennedy, Maura Beltrami, Sarah Cooley, Mia Sansone Liana Demirs and Dylan Burkowsky lead the way. Woodland also boasts some talented underclassmen, including sophomores Emme Starzman and Olivia Schwenger, and freshmen Laura DeGennaro, Josie Nesta and Molly Stead.

“We knew coming into the season that we had some depth,” Woodland head coach Mike Magas said. “But with so many young swimmers in the program now, we have a little bit of flexibility throughout the lineup.”

Naugatuck’s Ayana Williams does the breaststroke while swimming in the 200 medley relay during a meet against St. Paul on Oct. 15 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

The Hawks also have a leg up on most teams thanks to a five-member diving squad: seniors Kayleigh Theroux, Shaelin DiGioia and Adrianna Heeman, junior Ella Bernegger and freshman Madison Hart.

“The main thing we want to do is make sure everyone is healthy and well rested,” said Magas about heading into NVLs. “Once we get there we need to make sure we don’t make any mistakes that would cause us to lose points. A false start can really hurt ourselves.”

“If a team comes out and is better than you that day, we tip our cap,” he continued. “But there is nothing worse than beating yourself by making mistakes. We should go into the finals with a good amount of points with our diving team. We just need to take care of business on our end.”

The Greyhounds finished the regular season 7-1, with their only blemish a 94-81 loss to Woodland on Oct. 8.

“We have some time to work on some things,” said Naugatuck head coach Jim McKee last week. “During the regular season you don’t get that extra time. But with the championship a week or so away we can work on some techniques and try and make sure we win our share of points to stay in the running.”

Naugatuck’s Jacqueline Uva swims the 200 freestyle during a meet against St. Paul on Oct. 15 at Naugatuck High School. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

McKee boasts one of his deepest lineups in quite a few seasons. Naugatuck doesn’t have a diving team, but makes up for it with a core of swimmers that can go deep in four events.

The Greyhounds are led by seniors Jacqueline Uva, Haley Deller, Kelly Brodeur, Alena Rotatori, Kayla Bartlett, Emily Meyer, Davinity Smallwood and Shayla Shaw. Juniors Leticia DoNascimento, Ayana Williams and Lauren Litke add to the Greyhounds’ experience.

The Greyhounds have seen vast improvement from several young swimmers this season, including sophomores Tara Fitzgerald, Amy Morrissey, Elizabeth Aresta, Briana Rubas and Lauren Umland, and freshmen Lily Jason and Sydney Connolly.

“The key is to develop four swimmers in each event that can score points,” McKee said. “Seymour is always good. They have a lot of good swimmers, but again it comes down to depth and the team that can put four swimmers in each event gives themselves the best chance to be successful.”