Swimming Preview: Bishop Guertin girls' team hopes to catch boys' squad in the pool
Now it's time for the girls' squad to get in on some of that action.
"Bishop Guertin is definitely gunning for two state titles this year," said first-year Cardinals head coach Brendan McLaughlin. "My main focus is the girls. We only graduated one girl from last year after finishing third and we think we have what it takes to win states."
McLaughlin takes over for Coach of the Year Karla Black and has a slew of talented incoming freshmen girls that he hopes can bring Bishop Guertin its first girls' title in school history. Newcomer Katie Mahoney joins Caroline Shusta atop the depth chart for the Cardinals, while the roster is rounded out by a core of Meaghan Turcotte, Katie Soraghan, Kaleigh Santos, and diver Veronica Mack.
Mack has been training at Harvard University along with reigning boys champion David Pfeifer. The pair has a great shot to become dual state champions in diving for BG.
The Cardinals took a decisive victory at last year's state championship, finishing 78 points ahead of second-place Bedford. The gap may have closed a bit this year, as key contributors from last season's team Joe Moleski and Brandon Conceicao won't be returning.
"We lost two talented swimmers in Joe and Brandon and losing two talented kids like that who swam on our 'A' relay is a big blow, but that just means we have to have kids step up and take their place and fulfill those roles," said McLaughlin, who coached at Nashua South last season. "If I had them, I'd say I don't think there's anyone that could even get close to us, but losing talent like that just makes things tighter and more competitive."
McLaughlin expects Sam Root and Matt Puksta to pick up the slack, with promising newcomer Kendrick Rubino adding to the mix.
Perhaps the strongest swimmer on the BG boys squad is Brett Seeley-Hacker.
"He's the fastest boy I have," said McLaughlin. "Brett is very versatile. This kid can swim all four strokes but his two primary events are the 200 free and 100 free. You can put this kid in any event and he'll blow anybody out of the water, he's probably one of the top swimmers in the state and he's just a junior."
Bedford will still be aiming to take down the Cardinals boys' team, while Nashua North, coached by McLaughlin's father Ed and led by All-State swimmer Nathan Garner, will also be a tough team. Brian Greathead took over for McLaughlin at South and has nearly double the team-size that the Panthers had last year, so expect them to be near the top as well.
Bedford, Dover, Exeter and BG are looking like the class of the Division I girls' teams, but Alvirne of Hudson's Rebecca Dionne, who is two-tenths of a second away from an All-America cut in the 100 freestyle, should help the Broncos win some meets.
Reigning girls' champ Dover, led by Linda Long, could certainly repeat, especially behind All-State sophomore Julia DeGregorio. Long feels DeGregorio is one of the best swimmers in the state. Seniors Tessa Chapman and Elizabeth Malia will also pave the way, while junior Cassidy Black and freshman Sarah Wydra are expected to score well for the Green Wave.
The division is marginally open, as Long sees several teams at the top ready to compete but thinks the Bulldogs will be tough.
"Bedford is still going to be strong, and I expect the Manchester teams to be strong," said Dover's head coach. "Nashua North has been strong in the past, but it depends on who they get coming in. Those are the main ones. Bedford is going to be the team to beat again."
As for Division II, a power shift from reigning girls' champion St. Thomas of Dover to the boys side appears to be in order for Becky Maloney's club.
"My girls' team graduated a lot of seniors that played a significant role in our championship, so I don't think my girls team is going to be as strong this year," said the Saints head coach. "But I got a lot of new freshman boys and I think I'll have the strongest team I've ever had."
Will Michali and Stephen Hazeltine are two of those freshmen who will join strong Saints vets Jack Gentes and Sam Haines.
Of course, the boys' team will have to overcome reigning champion Oyster River of Durham and All-Stater Joel Bates. Souhegan of Amherst is also expected to put together a powerhouse team.
On the girls' side, while the Saints still have reigning diving champion Signe Frick, they lost one of their top swimmers in Kyra Sarazen after she decided to focus on her club team. The Bobcats and Sabers should be at the top of the division, with Haley Jones and Megan Shannon leading the way for Oyster River.