Xavier, already going through what could be a bit of a rebuilding year, was thrown for a loop late in November when Keith Nichols resigned as the team’s coach and Leandra Matos was named his replacement just before the 2011 season began. Matos, who has 14 years of coaching experience at the USA swimming level, did not have the most seamless introduction to Xavier. Nevertheless, she is very prepared to make her mark quickly.
“I think this will be a rebuilding year for our team,” she said. “We graduated a lot of talent and have a top heavy team. My focus will be on individual improvement and helping my swimmers work on their technique and race strategies.”
The Falcons have lost a lot of talent from last year’s squad, which finished seventh at the Class LL meet and ninth at the State Open. Kevin Kosciuk, who won the 200 yard IM at the Class LL meet and finished second at the same event at the Open while leading off the team’s potent relays, is gone. So are Kyle Newton, Will Loftus, Tom Rakowicz and John Maher, all of whom had strong performances at the two events.
But though a number of good swimmers have left the team, others are ready to step up in their place. Matos singles out sophomores Steven Russo and Andrew Eigner, freshmen Mike Timer, junior diver Spencer Beaulieu and senior Greg Brown, versatile swimmers who were able place in the end of the season tournaments, as the Falcons who will carry her team this season. When you couple their abilities with the overall leadership and experience of Xavier’s 15 seniors, the team is capable of coming close to the success Xavier swimming has had in recent years.
“With the number of swimmers we lost this is an exploratory year,” Manos stated. “But I would hope that the team could be as competitive as the last few years. Our swimmers must step up.”
Xavier opens the season on Thursday at home versus Sheehan at 7:30.
Middletown should be a very strong team this season. With a number of talented swimmers and a significant amount of depth, the Blue Dragons will be at the top of the Central Connecticut Conference.
Seniors Ronnie Vaughan and Ethan Cooke and juniors Michael Ciebielski and Andrew Gilliland each placed at the 2011 Class LL meet multiple times, and the remainder of the roster ain’t no slouches either.
Middletown went 10-5 last season before winning the CSS regular season and postseason titles and placing seventh at the Class LL meet. With the depth this year’s squad has, Head Coach Trevor Charles sees his team exceeding those accomplishments in this campaign.
“I’m pretty excited about the potential we have this year,” said Head Coach Trevor Charles. “We have swimmers who can finish first in every event and 10 or more kids who can be strong in each one. I expect our team to be better than last year nd win about 12 dual meets. We want to have a better showing in the class meet and to break a couple school records this season.”
The Blue Dragons will face off against a daunting schedule in the always competitive CCC. The team’s toughest opponents will be traditional powerhouses Glastonbury, Conard and Wethersfield. Despite the challenge in front of Middletown from the get go however, Charles is unconcerned. He is excited to see his team in the pool.
“These first few meets are very important,” he stated. “I want to see if we can match the hype and excitement our depth has generated.”
The Blue Dragons have their first meet when they face off Wednesday at home against East Lyme at 4:00.