Graceful departure for senior swimmers

Courtney Scrib

For nine graduating seniors, Feb. 7th was especially bittersweet. During the final home meet of the 2003-04 season, in which the Wildcats hosted Syracuse, the men and women’s swimming and diving teams honored their senior teammates for their accomplishments and years of dedication.

The Villanova women ended the Senior Day Meet with a 168-124 win over the Orangewomen, while the men, despite several outstanding performances, fell to Syracuse by a score of 191-93.

Continuing her phenomenal season, All-American Rebecca Koch led the way for the women by posting three individual wins. She took first in the 200-meter-freestyle with a time of one minute, 51.33 seconds. Koch also finished first in the 100-meter-butterfly (57.32) and 500-meter-freestyle (4:56.87) and helped the 200-meter-medley relay squad to victory.

Other top finishers for the women were sophomore Amanda Jackson, who took first in both the 100-meter-freestyle (52.79) and 50-meter-freestyle (24.45), and freshman Jenny Somerville, who won the 1000-meter-freestyle in a time of 10:17.11. Junior Tori Delollo added another win in the 100-meter-backstroke (58.70).

Senior divers Julie Rhines and Amy Sfara also concluded their dual meet career on a high note. Rhines finished first in the three-meter dive (240.30), while Sfara won the one-meter dive (248.93).

“I was very pleased with how my senior divers performed,” Villanova diving coach Gary Elder said. “They have complemented each other very well over the past four years [ . . .] It will be very hard trying to replace them in the coming year.”

Sfara, who holds the school record in the three-meter dive, was equally pleased with Saturday’s results. “Julie and I dove really well,” Sfrara said. “We couldn’t have ended our dual careers any better.”

On the men’s side, senior co-captain Ryan Costella posted his fastest 500-meter- freestyle time of the season (4:50.06). Villanova captured the top three spots in that event, with junior Bryan Rivera placing first in a time of 4:47.19, followed by Costella and senior Jamie Wolczynski (5:01.90).

What most impressed Costella, who also placed second in the 1000 freestyle (10:03.60), was the amount of effort his teammates put into their races.

“The team atmosphere was awesome, and everyone gave it 100percent,” he said. “Four years ago we had hardly any team spirit or pride – now it’s a completely different story.”

Despite coming off several weeks of intense training, including an eight day training camp, Villanova’s team spirit was also high on Friday, Jan. 30th during the home meet against Big East rival St. John’s. Led by Koch and Jackson, who combined for five individual wins, the Wildcat women defeated the Red Storm by a score of 125-77. The men, however, were unable to overcome the tough competition (132-77).

“Considering the fact that St. John’s has several foreign Olympians on their team,” Costella said, “we stood up very well as a program and raced them eye to eye.”

Villanova head swimming coach Rick Simpson agreed. “The performances against St. John’s were very promising, especially with the upcoming Big East Championships just around the corner.”

With less than two weeks left before the Big East Championships, the Wildcats are growing increasingly more excited about the possibilities.

“After putting in a lot of hard-working hours all year, fast swimming at the close of the regular season will certainly bring out some great performances at Big Easts,” sophomore Matt McLaughlin said.

“I [am] impressed with how our athletes are focusing on the little things-the details,” Simpson added. “With some rest, everyone will have increased energy to swim fast, but the details must come from the extra effort from within.”

Saturday the ‘Cats will travel to Piscataway, NJ, for the Rutgers Invitational.