With a combination of high-caliber, talented returnees and an infusion of touted newcomers, fifth-year women's swimming head coach Colin Shannahan is confident that his 2015-16 squad will be in the mix as they vie for their second Northeast Conference (NEC) title in three-years. Stock photo via Mike Lewis/Ola Vista Photography
Staten Island, NY – With a combination of high-caliber, talented returnees and an infusion of touted newcomers, fifth-year women’s swimming head coach Colin Shannahan is confident that his 2015-16 squad will be in the mix as they vie for their second Northeast Conference (NEC) title in three-years.
“Our expectation, just the like start of every year, is to win a championship,” said Shannahan. “This is a different team with a fresh outlook. There is a ton of positive energy at practice and I like the progress the team is making early on.”
Shannahan, along with fourth-year head diving coach, Meg Marco, added former Fordham standout, Megan Zarriello to the coaching staff this past offseason to form the trio that will guide the Seahawks this season.
The 2015-16 Seahawks are well-balanced, with core depth in all events. The roster features 12 upperclassmen, who will be looked upon as veterans to provide leadership and guidance to the two newcomers that Shannahan added.
“We have to continue to work hard and execute in practice and in competition,” added Shannahan. “We put more emphasis on certain things that we haven’t necessarily in past years, taking different approaches in dryland training and our lifting program.”
The senior class will be the driving force, returning nine members from last year’s squad. Leading the way is Amanda Lucia (Easthampton, MA/ Easthampton), who swept all three of her individual events at last season’s NEC Championships while setting two conference records in the process and making a qualifying NCAA “B” cut in the 200-yard butterfly. Along with Lucia is Maggie Shaw(Chantilly, VA/Chantilly), who took first place in the 500-yeard freestyle at NEC’s last year along with being a core leg in the relays. The depth of Corinne Rondina (Staten Island, NY/Notre Dame Academy) and Michele Detka (Buckeye, AZ/Verrado) is a major benefit in the sprint freestyle events while Erin Malone (Sewell, NJ/Washington Township) holds a strong presence in the butterfly and the individual medley. The depth of the backstroke comes from a solid foundation of Meghan Mendez (Export, PA/PA Cyber) and Kaitlin Murtha (New Fairfield, CT/New Fairfield) and a versatileKara Lacoste (Chicopee, MA/Chicopee Comprehensive), who rounds out the senior class.
“This class is special to me as they were my first recruiting class as a head coach,” mentioned Shannahan. “We have been through a lot. Within this group, there are conference champions, conference and school record holders and a lot of talent overall. They are going to be tough to replace, not just ability wise but also personality wise as well, they really lead the team.”
Much of the Seahawk success comes from the junior class, composed of three swimmers. JuniorAnu Nihipali (Honolulu, HI/Hawaii Preparatory Academy) took the NEC by storm last year en route to earning Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet for the second straight year. The Honolulu, HI native took all three of her events, while breaking two NEC records in the 200 IM and 200 backstroke, and made two qualifying NCAA “B” cuts in the 100 back and 200 back. Nihipali became the first Seahawk to be selected to participate at an NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving championship, a meet that features the top 39 swimmers in the country for each event.
Grace Baird (Lexington, SC/West Davidson) is back after a successful sophomore campaign in which she took home first-place honors in the 1,650-yard free at last year’s NEC Championships.Katja Claesson (Fullerton, CA/Troy) leads the breaststroke group as she placed third overall in the 200-yard breaststroke at the NEC Championships last year while being a pivotal force in the breaststroke leg of the IM relays.
“All three of these girls are so extraordinarily talented in the water,” said Shannahan. “They make up a large part of our team and are all top of the conference swimmers.”
The second-year Seahawks are a group of five swimmers, Leahi Camacho (Kailua Kona, HI/Kealakene), Erin Finn (Middletown, NJ/Middletown North), Kirsty Hessing (Bloomington, IL/Normal Community), Maddie McNichol (Downingtown, PA/Henderson) and Kristine Sullivan(Overland Park, KS/Notre Dame de Sion), whom will look to build upon their achievements from their freshmen season. These returners are crucial in adding depth to the freestyle, IM, distance and sprint aspects in the water. Camacho and Hessing provide deep depth with Shaw and Baird to the distance unit while MicNichol and Sullivan are key contributors in the sprinting events.
“This class has tremendous potential with the talent they showed a season ago,” said Shannahan. “We are starting to see them flourish as they are starting to step up in practice, come out their shells and have a great set of personalities. By the time this class becomes seniors, I expect them to mirror our senior class now because they are that good. As for this upcoming year, they should have solid performances in the conference.”
Head Coach Shannahan added two swimmers for the 2015-2016 year, Dorian McMenemy(Northborough, MA/Algonquin Regional) and Iman Eulinberg (Cleveland, OH/Hathaway Brown Shaker Heights). The two add excitement and power to the freestyle and butterfly sprint groups.
McMenemy arrives on Grymes Hill with quite the list of accomplishments as she attended the 2012 London Olympics, the only female to represent the Dominican Republic. Eulinberg, a Cleveland, OH native, was ranked among the top-75 in the state of Ohio, as she placed in the top-10 of the 2013-14 Ohio State Championships in the 500-yard freestyle event.
“I am excited to see what Dorian and Iman will do this year,” said Shannahan. “Dorian is soft spoken and puts in a lot of work and effort during practice. She takes to coaching very well and understands what her body is doing.”
“Iman is a great kid,” added Shannahan. “She is tough, determined, talented, a good sprinter and will be very productive in the pool for us this year.”
In only its fifth year of competing, the diving team rewrote the record books during the 2014-15 NEC Championships, establishing themselves as a force to reckon within the NEC. Three top-tier divers return in senior Erica Curry (Fountain Valley, CA/Fountain Valley) along with sophomores Sam Lavrich (Audubon, PA/Methacton) and Grace Solipaca (Philadelphia, PA/Bishop Eustace).
Lavrich made program history last year, becoming the first Wagner diver to ever win the 3-meter (246.65 points) along with earning Outstanding Diver of the Meet honors while Curry finished fourth overall on the 3-meter with 224.45 points. In the one-meter diving event, Curry and Lavrich placed third and fourth, respectively. During the regular season, both Curry and Lavrich were each named NEC Diver of the Week on four occasions.
With all three divers returning, Curry, Lavrich and Solipaca are expected to produce even better results while adding new dives and working to increase their degree of difficulty on each one.
The 2015-16 season began on September 26 when the Green & White competed against Northeastern. The Seahawks fell to the Huskies, 162-130.
The Seahawks open their conference slate this Saturday, October 17, when they host Bryant at 11:30 am.
“This weekend will be a good test for us,” mentioned Shannahan. “It’s our first conference competition of the year and Bryant is always a strong team. It’s always a fun race as Bryant has a great group of kids and great coaching staff which makes for a competitive day.”
Swimming news courtesy of Wagner Swimming & Diving.
Lauren Neidigh is a former NCAA swimmer at the University of Arizona (2013-2015) and the University of Florida (2011-2013). While her college swimming career left a bit to be desired, her Snapchat chin selfies and hot takes on Twitter do not disappoint. She's also a high school graduate of The …