PAT LONGOBARDI — Sports Writer
With a full squad returning this season, it is back to business for the SCSU women’s swimming and diving team.
They have their swagger back along with a lot of depth to make yet another run for their ninth-consecutive Northeast-10 Conference championship, and possibly build on good times during meets to get more athletes back to nationals.
“We have a lot of versatility, which I think will help us out,” SCSU junior captain Amanda Thomas said. “We have a lot of depth in distance events which will help. I think we will do really well. I think this will be one of our best seasons [for both teams].”
The Owls won their eighth consecutive conference title last season, finishing more than 300 points ahead of second place.
Thomas and senior Meghan Fay will serve as captains this season for the Owls.
Fay (Branford, Conn.) is a two-time conference champion in her career, and she swam a leg of the winning 800 yard freestyle relay team last season.
Thomas (Oakville, Conn.) completed her dominant sophomore season with the 15th individual national championship in school history in the 200-yard individual medley with a time of 2:00.88. She also came close to more gold when she finished as the runner-up in the 400-yard individual medley and the 200-yard butterfly. Thomas was named an All-American in four events and was the 2011 Northeast-10 Conference Swimmer of the Year.
“They are pretty young in the captain world, but they are learning quick,” SCSU men’s and women’s head coach Tim Quill said, who enters his 13th season leading the Owls. “We will see how their character develops. They will play a huge role about the type of team we have by their confidence.”
Southern ended last season also receiving votes in the College Swimming Coaches Association of America Division II rankings, receiving 24 votes.
The Owls sent five athletes, all women, to the Division II NCAA Championships last March in San Antonio, Tex.
Quill said that starting last year, the new system for qualifying at nationals has made it much harder to just get in and compete.
“It doesn’t make it easy,” Quill said. “The thought process is not good enough anymore. You need to make adjustments and raise the bar with the expectations within the program.
We have pretty good experience. We will certainly be in the running, depth wise, for the conference. For the type of squad we have, I want to spread them out in different races and get a feel where they match up for the bigger meets.”
This season the roster will consist of five seniors, three juniors, 12 sophomores and five freshmen.
The season opener was at the Blue Devil Duals on Oct. 14 and 15. The home opener will be Oct. 29 for the Alumni Meet. The Owls will again host the Northeast-10 Conference Championships from Feb. 2-4 at Hutchinson Natatorium. The Metropolitan Championships will be on Feb. 17-19 and the NCAA Championships will be March 7-10 in Dallas, Tex.
Thomas said now that she has the experience of competing at nationals to go along with a national championship, she will use those memories to go ahead into the future.
“I want to use what I did last season as motivation for this season,” Thomas said. “I want to compare my times and make sure I’m faster, if not, as fast. I don’t know what to expect.”