Oct. 19, 2005
After a 12th place finish in 2005, the ASU women's swimming and diving team is looking to finish in the top-10 this season with 19 letterwinners and six All-Americans returning.
"Our expectation is that we should be in the top-10," said swimming head coach Mike Chasson. "Hopefully, we'll be anywhere from 10th to sixth depending on how these girls step up and how many girls we can get to the meet."
Sophomore Caitlin Andrew (San Antonio, Texas) returns after a stellar freshman season that included a Pac-10 title in the 100 butterfly and first-team All-American honors. Individually, Andrew placed fourth in the 100 butterfly at the NCAA's to record the highest finish for the swimmers.
"I expect Caitlin Andrew to be one of the best flyers in the country," said Chasson. "She's got to help on more relays and at least one more individual event to help make up for the loss of Agnes Kovacs."
The swimming team lost two All-American swimmers in Florencia Szigeti and Kovacs. Incoming freshmen Jennifer Beckberger (Ajax, Ontario) and Amy Konowalik (Derby, England) look to step in and help fill the spots left by Szigeti and Kovacs. Returning All-Americans include senior Erin Baldinger (Phoenix, Ariz.), junior Amanda Gillespie (Ottawa, Ontario), senior Kathryn Hennessy (Kansas City, Mo.), senior Heidi Schmidt (Visalia, Calif.), senior Sandra Steffensen (Treeleborg, Sweden) and Andrew.
The women's swimming and diving schedule will be challenging this season and includes duals on the road against Pac-10 powerhouses Cal and Stanford Jan. 20 and 21 respectively. ASU will host UC Santa Barbara on Oct. 28 and 29 with Penn State also swimming on Oct. 29. Penn State, who finished just three points behind ASU at the NCAA's to place 13th, should give the Sun Devils an early test in the season. Dec. 1-3 ASU will travel to Austin, Texas for the Texas Invitational. The Sun Devils round out the regular season playing host to Arizona on Feb. 11.
"I think this is one of the best schedules we've had since I've been here in terms of giving our team a good test," said Chasson.
ASU has some experienced swimmers returning for the sprint freestyle events along with a few newcomers. Baldinger, who recorded the sixth fastest time in Sun Devil history in the 50 freestyle in 2004, will return for her senior campaign looking to beat her time from last year.
"We've got Erin Baldinger who was very good on our 400 free relay last year at the NCAA's, " said Chasson. "We need her to help in the 50 freestyle too."
Also, returning from 2004-05 is Caitlin Andrew who recorded the school's fourth fastest time in the 100 freestyle and seventh fastest time in the 50 freestyle. Senior Laura Ullrich (Centreville, Va.) had some very fast splits in the relays last season and could make an impact in a sprint freestyle event this season.
Other sprint freestylers include junior transfer Katherine Azar (Simi Valley, Calif.), junior Abra Armour (Sunnyvale, Calif.), Beckberger, sophomore Lindsey Brown (Saginaw, Mich.) and freshman Ilene Lesch (Ann Arbor, Mich.).
Middle Distance Freestyle:
Middle-distance freestyle swimmers sophomore Ellis Schieman (Shaker Heights, Ohio), Jen Beckberger (Ajax, Ontario) and Steffensen return to swim the 200 and 500 freestyle events. Steffensen and Schieman have recorded the ninth and 10th best times respectively in school history in the 200.
"Sandra Steffensen has been to the NCAA's in the 800-free relay and this season she needs to help us individually," Chasson said.
Chasson also expects senior Sally Brown (Andover, Mass.) and junior Amanda Gillespie (Ottawa, Ontario) to add depth in the mid distance events. Gillespie was the anchor on the school-record 800 freestyle relay team that set the school record in 2004.
Both sophomore Sarah Fischer (Boulder, Colo.) and senior Hennessy have recorded top-10 times in the 1650 freestyle and are the top returnees for the event this season. In the 2004-05 season, Fischer and Hennessy both qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Others expected in the distance freestyle events are junior transfer Emily Goodall (Camarillo, Calif.). They will add depth to the roster in the distance freestyle events.
With Agnes Kovacs gone, the Sun Devils return two very solid swimmers in junior Christine Creek (Simi Valley, Calif.) and Heidi Schmidt. In the 100 breaststroke, Schmidt owns the third fastest time in school history. In 2004, Creek recorded the fifth fastest time for a Sun Devil in the 200 breaststroke.
"We return Heidi and she is a very good swimmer," said Chasson. "As a sprint breaststroker she'll be able to contribute. She could be huge."
Freshman Amy Konowalik is looking to score at the NCAA's this season in the 200 breaststroke as well. Coach Chasson is also hoping for a breakout season from freshman Ilene Lesch. ASU is very deep in the breaststroke events and looks to have some scoring opportunities in these events at the NCAA's this season.
Backstroke is a wide-open event for ASU where there is a lot of potential and several swimmers who can step up. Jen Beckberger swims backstroke and the coaches will try and see how that fits in with her other freestyle events. Caitlin Andrew has the best times for backstroke, but since she also swims butterfly the coaches are looking for other people to step up in the backstroke events.
Erin Baldinger is hoping to return to form from two years ago when she swam the 100 backstroke at the NCAA's. In 2004, Baldinger recorded the third fastest time in school history in the 100 backstroke.
"Erin Baldinger is one of our 100 backstrokers," said Chasson. "We're hoping she can get back to her backstroke time of two years ago."
Freshman Rikka Brunner (Mukilteo, Wash.) and sophomore Emlynn Tursick (Carpenteria, Calif.) will add depth for the 200 backstroke. Other backstrokers on the team include junior Carissa Abe (Fullerton, Calif.) and freshman Frankie Judy (Tucson, Ariz.).
First-team All-American Caitlin Andrew will try and defend her Pac-10 title in the 100 butterfly this season becoming the first Sun Devil to win the conference title in a butterfly event. Andrew's stellar freshman campaign included a fourth-place finish at NCAA's and shattered the school record in the 100 butterfly.
Also, returning in the 100 butterfly is Laura Ullrich. Ullrich just missed the NCAA's last year and should make an impact this season. In 2004, she recorded the fourth fastest time in ASU history in the 100 butterfly.
"We have Caitlin coming back for the 100-fly and right behind her is Laura Ullrich who just missed the NCAA's," said Chasson. "I think we have good 100 flyers with those two girls leading the way."
The top returnees for the 200 butterfly are Ellis Schieman and Amanda Gillespie. Schieman holds the eighth best time in the ASU record books in the 200 butterfly was a finalist at the US Nationals last summer.
ASU's 200 IM has a lot of potential and is going to be very deep. Senior Kari Wilcox (Rocklin, Calif.), Heidi Schmidt, Amy Konowalik, Christine Creek and Caitlin Andrew will all be in the mix in the 200 IM. Wilcox owns the school's sixth best time in the 200 IM.
"We have a bunch of girls who can swim the 200 IM pretty well that have a lot of potential," said Chasson. "I feel pretty good about the 200 IM."
There isn't going to be as much depth for the women in the 400 IM. Sarah Fischer returns as the top swimmer in that event, but ASU will need other swimmers to step up as well.
Three of four swimmers return from the record-setting 200 freestyle relay team of a year ago. Caitlin Andrew, Laura Ullrich and Heidi Schmidt helped break the school record in the 200 freestyle relay. One of ASU's top recruits, Jen Beckberger, may be on five relays this season and could make a big impact.
Erin Baldinger, who had a solid season on the 400 relay, will also contribute to the team. Baldinger was an All-American honorable mention in the 200 and 400 freestyle relay along with the 400 medley relay.
Also contributing to relay teams will be Sandra Steffensen, Sally Brown and Amanda Gillespie. They will all compete in the 800 freestyle relay. Last year, Ullrich didn't get draw into the NCAA's, but could make a big impact on some of the relays this season.
"She could be huge for us if she gets to the meet because she had some of the fastest splits in the country on our relays last season," Chasson said. "There just weren't enough ways to get her to the meet."
Despite having one of the best woman divers in ASU history departed in Trisha Tumlinson, the Sun Devils still expect to have another strong season with junior Cassidy Farwell (Glendale, Calif.) and Erin Hobbs (Calgary, Alberta) competing for the Sun Devils this season.
While Bradshaw admits that having only two divers will possibly hurt scoring in some dual meets, in the end he expects both of his competitors to stand tall at the Pac-10 and Zone E meets. / Farwell has made a lot of progress in the last two years and is continuously improving. She qualified for the US Nationals over the summer and has made continued progress in each of her two seasons in Tempe.
"Cassidy (Farwell) improves almost every time she steps on the board," said diving head coach Mark Bradshaw.
Hobbs will have an immediate impact this year and could score at the NCAA's. She has dove at the international level and possesses a lot of talent.
"Erin is a freshman and there are rigors with being a college freshman and a student-athlete, but she will really help us," said Bradshaw.