Tough schedule awaits swimmers

Tough schedule awaits swimmers

By Jared Sugarman

Two years ago, the members of the swimming and diving team were the proverbial big fish in a small pond. Now, it’s time for them to prove they can hang with the sharks.

After capturing five consecutive America East Conference Championships from 2000-2004, Northeastern left the conference for the more competitive Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), where they finished in sixth place in 2005.

“It’s not just that one team is better than any team was in America East. The competition is better across the board [in the CAA],” said head coach Roy Coates, who is set to begin his 14th season as head coach of the swimming and diving team.

The Huskies had grown accustomed to being the top dog in America East, so according to Coates, it took some time for them to get used to life in the CAA.

“Obviously, the competition is tougher, but it also took some time just for us to adjust to our new surroundings. Last year, if you had asked the girls just to name all the schools [in the CAA], a lot of them probably couldn’t have,” Coates said.

However, the Huskies are hopeful that the experience they gained last season, coupled with a few top-notch recruits, will propel them toward the top of the CAA.

“We had some talent last year, but we were lacking depth,” Coates said. “With the 12 new swimmers that we have now, we’re definitely a better team than we were last year.”

Coates said he has high hopes for Kathrine Fugge, a three-time All-American in the 100 freestyle, 100 butterfly, and 200 IM and the swimmer that Coates called his “top recruit.” Also among the newcomers is freshman Emily Sutliff, a three-time All Conference team member in high school.

The key veterans from last year’s squad include junior co-captain Kara Lane, senior co-captain Tarah Rodriguez and sophomore Elena Alvarez, the 2005-2006 CAA Rookie of the Year and a member of the CAA All-Conference Team.

But it remains to be seen if this talented group of rookies, transfers and veterans be able to prove their mettle against their rugged CAA foes.

Coates said he believes the answer will begin to spell itself out at the New England Invitational, which is hosted by Boston University Nov. 17-19.

“The biggest benchmark of the regular season is the invitational meet at BU. Some of the best teams from around New England will be there, and it’s set up similar to the way that the conference championship meet is set up, so it’s a pretty big checkpoint for us,” Coates said. “We’re probably among the top three or four teams in New England.”

The Huskies have meets against city rivals Boston College and Boston University, and state rival UMass. But, Coates said he and his girls have their eyes on the big prize: a CAA title.

“In our sport, it’s all about winning the conference championship,” he said. “We’d like to win our regular season meets, but once we reach the conference championship, those really don’t mean anything.”

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