Press Release courtesy of Illinois Athletics.
The 2017-18 Fighting Illini women’s swimming and diving team looks to build off of its recent success, following four consecutive winning seasons. Illinois will look to make it five consecutive winning seasons for the first time since the span of 1995-2000.
The Illini will look similar to a year ago, as the team graduated just three seniors from the 2016-17 squad. The Orange and Blue will miss Gabbie Stecker, who leaves Illinois as the school record holder in the 500 freestyle and 200 butterfly, as well Amelia Schilling and Audrey Rodawig. The three swimmers were part of the record breaking 800 freestyle relay at the Big Ten Championships, while Stecker and Rodawig each swam a leg on the best 400 medley relay time in school history.
“We expect all of our athletes to lead and set a great example,” head coach Sue Novitskysaid. “They all have experience and are willing to work hard, so we need everyone to contribute for us to be successful. The team is still pretty young overall. We have a lot of athletes that are very versatile and that will help us tremendously in dual meets.”
The Illini will look to a strong senior class, headlined by Samantha Stratford, to lead the team this year. Stratford finished last season with the seven fastest 200 individual medley times for the Illini, highlighted by a school record time of 1:58.95 at the Missouri Invitational. The class also features Ashley Aegerter, who moved up to fourth on the all-time fastest individuals list with a 200 breaststroke time of 2:14.80, Kaitlyn Joyce, who places third on the fastest individuals list with a 50 butterfly time of :25.40, as well as Gabrielle Bethke, Nelly Casas, Adelaide Curry and Sascha Meyers.
The junior class is led by Garbriele Serniute and Megan Vuong. Serniute finished last season with the fastest 100 breaststroke time for the Illini with a time of 1:02.84 at the Missouri Invitational, while Vuong moved up to fourth on the fastest individuals list with a 100 butterfly time of :54.87. Rebecca Eckblad, Autumn Ledgin, Aby Olson, as well as top returning diver, Madeline Kuhn round out the junior class.
Coming off of a successful freshman campaign, the 2017-18 sophomore class will look to continue that success this year. Jamie Kolar and Monica Guyett made quite the impact in their first year in Champaign, as the two both finished with top times on the season. Kolar posted the top 100 backstroke time on the season at the Big Ten Championships, moving up to fifth on the fastest individuals list, while Guyett finished with the top 1000 freestyle and 1650 freestyle times on the season. The class also features Kristin Anderson, Rebecca Corzine, Mary Margaret Fry, Molly Hein, Lauren LaPeter, Emily Martin, Fiona McDermott, Haley Nelson and Morgan Young.
Illinois welcomes six new student-athletes to the program in a promising freshman class, as Emma Burns, Emma Curtis, Natalie Edwards, Erin Emme, Jimena Martinez and Michelle McCord look to make an immediate impact for the Illini.
“The freshmen on paper are a very talented class,” Novitsky said. “They continue to step up and lead in practice and will help us out in multiple events in our lineup.”
The diving team will look a little different this season, as the Orange and Blue welcome new Head Diving Coach Manny Pollard to the team. Pollard, a two-time Minnesota diver of the year, as well as a three-time All-American during his time in Minneapolis, will look to returning divers Madeline Kuhn, Lauren LaPeter and Morgan Young to lead the way for the Illini. Kuhn earned top marks for the Illini in both one-meter and three-meter diving competition.
“I expect the divers to come in and work hard and be relentless competitors,” Novitsky said. “I want to see them challenging themselves to be the best they can be on the boards and outside of the pool. Manny brings in a wealth of diving experience and is pushing the divers each day in practice.”
This season’s schedule will feature home meets against Indiana State, Rutgers, Northwestern, as well as the Illinois Quad Duals and the Illinois Tri-Meet. The squad will also travel to compete against Michigan State, Southern Illinois, Illinois State, Notre Dame and Nebraska. The annual Missouri Invitational will be held November 16-18 in Columbia, Missouri. The Illini open the season with the annual Orange and Blue Intra-Squad Meet on Saturday at 9 a.m. at the ARC Pool.
“The Orange and Blue meet allows us to see how we are doing with our training,” Novitsky said. “Our first official meet is October 13 and we want to make sure that we are ready for that competition.”
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