PISCATAWAY, N.J. (July 22, 2015) – With a new head coach, six newcomers, and a host of experience, the Rutgers swimming and diving team is set for the 2015-16 season. The year begins with the team’s intersquad scrimmage on Friday, Sept. 25, followed by the program’s inaugural alumni meet held Saturday, Sept. 26.
“Obviously, we want to do well, perform well, put up some good times, and put up some good dives,” said head coach Petra Martin, “But it needs to be done the right way. If we are going to skip some of the steps that need to be taken then ultimately we’re not going to get the result we want. We need to be methodical about what we are doing and follow the plan.”
The Martin Era
On May 5, 2015, Martin was named the head swimming and diving coach at Rutgers, bringing a wealth of success and experience “To the Banks”. She will be tasked with continuing the Scarlet Knights’ transition into the Big Ten Conference, one of the most prestigious swimming and diving leagues in the country.
“I’m super excited to start,” Martin said. “This is a great opportunity. I think this program has a lot of upsides. I think we can build something really special here. We will do it the right way and it’s going to be awesome.”
Martin arrived after a prosperous five-year stint as the head coach at Bowling Green, where she guided the program to a top-three finish at the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championships in three consecutive seasons.
The 2012-13 MAC Coach of the Year guided the team to back-to-back third-place finishes at the conference championships in 2013 and 2014, marking the first time since 1992 and 1993 the team registered back-to-back years with a top-three finish. She expanded the streak with a third-place showing at the 2015 MAC Championships.
Martin, who was an All-American swimmer at the University of Maryland and a member of the Czech National Team, previously held coaching positions with George Mason University and the Terrapins.
2015-16 Season Preview
Rutgers returns 13 swimmers from last season’s squad that went 9-1 in dual action, including four seniors – Sarah Coyne (Osceola, Ind.), Sophie Newton (Leesburg, Va.), Morgan Pfaff (Red Lion, Pa.) and Joanna Wu (Kent, Wash.). This past spring, Coyne, Pfaff and Wu helped Rutgers secure program records in the 200 (1:40.05) and 400 (3:37.65) medley relays during the Big Ten Championships,
“They lead by example,” Martin said. “They want to learn. They’re showing everybody if you do things the right way, it’s going to work and this is the right way we are doing things.”
Pfaff, who was recognized as a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar last year for her efforts in the classroom, owns three program records, including top times in the 200 fly and 200 and 400 IM events. Wu, who holds two individual program records and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection last year, led the Scarlet Knights with 17 individual titles last season.
On the boards, sophomore Addison Walkowiak (Ballston, Spa, N.Y.) returns after producing one of the most decorated diving seasons in program history. Walkowiak collected four Big Ten Weekly honors and four ECAC accolades while setting the program record in the 1-meter dive with a score of 305.25 during the Big Ten Championships. Walkowiak also earned a spot at the 2015 NCAA Championships after recording scores of 537.10 in the 1-meter dive and 475.25 in the platform event during the NCAA Zone Diving Championships.
Junior Alyssa Black (Middletown, N.Y.) and sophomore Morgan Engel (Mound, Minn.) also saw action off the boards last season and will look to continue success for the Scarlet Knights.
Rutgers welcomed six newcomers to the 2015-16 roster, as Marin Bloise (Malvern, Pa.), Rachel Byrne (Bedford, N.H.), Vera Koprivova (Prerov, JC, Czech Republic), Morgan Perrotti (Palm Harbor, Fla.), Abbey Saunders (Oakville, Ontario) and Cynthia Wu (Princeton, N.J.) will all compete for the Scarlet Knights starting this fall.
“With the freshmen, there is certainly talent and potential,” Martin said. “But until we start really competing and tying things together, that is when we’ll get a real glimpse at exactly what they can do.”
Wu represented Rutgers at the 2015 Phillips 66 National Championships in San Antonio, Texas. Wu competed in the 50 freestyle as well as the 100 and 200 backstroke events.
The Scarlet Knights sent nine swimmers to the Southern Zone of the Speedo Sectional Championship series, as junior Rachel Stoddard (Hillsborough, N.J.) enjoyed a successful campaign, registering career bests in the 50 breaststroke (33.32), 100 breaststroke (1:11.99) and 200 breaststroke (2:36.5).
Sophomore Emily Erwin (Jenkintown, Pa.) set a personal best in the 200 individual medley during the championships, touching the wall with a time of 2:24.51. Classmate Chantal Asselin (Winnipeg, Canada) and junior Meghan Kiely (Mountain Lakes, N.J.) also set personal records in the 200 freestyle and 50 freestyle, respectively.
Rutgers concluded the 2014-15 season with a 9-1 dual record, registering an 11th-place finish at the 2015 Big Ten Women’s Swimming & Diving Championship.
The Scarlet Knights broke six program records throughout the season, including four at the Big Ten Championships. Coyne, Pfaff and Wu combined with Greta Leberfinger to secure a program-best time of 1:40.05 in the 200 medley relay at the meet, while the trio contributed to a program-record 3:37.64 in the 400 medley relay.
On the boards, Walkowiak registered a program-best championship score of 305.25 in the 1-meter dive. Walkowiak previously set the record in the 1-meter event with a 304.70 during the Frank Elm Invite.
Walkowiak and Leberfinger represented RU in postseason competition, qualifying for the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship in Greensboro, N.C. The appearance marked the second consecutive season the Scarlet Knights sent both a swimmer and diver to the championships.
In dual action, Rutgers collected impressive victories against Boston University, Georgetown, Miami (Fla.), New Hampshire, Providence, Seton Hall, Tulane, Villanova and Wagner.
The College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) named Rutgers women’s swimming and diving to the Scholar All-America Team, as the Scarlet Knights achieved a team grade point average of 3.39 throughout the spring semester. For RU – who was one of 12 Big Ten programs to earn the accolade – it marked the third consecutive season it received the prestigious designation.
Three returning athletes – Black, Pfaff and Wu – were also named Scholar All-Americans, which is based on their grade point average and athletic performance on the national level.
Five out of the Scarlet Knights’ first six contests will take place at home, with a number of national-level competitions taking place throughout the campaign.
“We are very excited about this year’s schedule,” Martin said. “It will give us a lot of different opportunities to compete against some of the best programs in the country and increase the level of competitiveness within our team.”
Rutgers begins the season on Friday, Sept. 25,with an intersquad scrimmage, followed by their annual RU Alumni meet on Saturday, Sept. 26.
The RU swimmers will then compete at the Florida Gulf Coast Invitational in Fort Myers, Fla. (Oct. 2-3) for their first road event of the season.
After the FGCU Invite, the Scarlet Knights host four straight home events, beginning with the yearly Sonny Werblin Invitational from Oct.16-17.
Wagner visits Piscataway less than a week later for RU’s first dual meet of the season on Friday, Oct. 23, followed by a home quad meet with Georgetown, Seton Hall and Villanova from Nov. 6-7. The Frank Elm Invite (Nov. 20-22) marks the final home event during the stretch for Rutgers.
Rutgers remains in the Garden State for its next event, as the divers travel to Princeton, N.J. to compete in the Princeton Invitational (Dec. 4-6). During the same weekend, the swimmers host Boston and Connecticut for a tri-meet.
Qualifying athletes will also get the chance to compete at the U.S. Long Course Nationals in Federal Way, Wash. (Dec. 3-5)
The Scarlet Knights face their first Big Ten opponent of the season after the New Year, competing against Iowa along with Kansas and Miami (Fla.) on Saturday, Jan. 9 in Miami. RU remains on the road the following weekend with a multi-day dual meet against Penn State from Jan. 15-16 in New Haven, Conn.
A home dual meet on Saturday, Jan. 23 with New Hampshire concludes the regular season for Rutgers. Last year, RU defeated the Wildcats, 183-117, and claimed 11 of 16 events.
The Big Ten Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships is set for Feb. 17-20 in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Following the Big Ten Championships, RU remains in Ann Arbor to compete in the Long Course Time Trials on Sunday, Feb. 21.
Swimming news courtesy of Rutgers Swimming & Diving.