Oct. 7, 2004
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Fifteen letterwinners return for the Arizona State University women's swimming and diving team in 2004-05, including five All-Americans. Following a 14th-place finish at last year's NCAA Championships, the Sun Devil women are looking to break back into the top-10 this season.
The Sun Devils will feature a relatively experienced squad this season, which includes two Pac-10 Champions, Florencia Szigeti (200 freestyle) and Trisha Tumlinson (platform and 3-meter springboard). The women have a solid foundation of experience and maturity to build upon at the start of the season. The focus of the team this season will be improving in all aspects and using the experience gained last year to fulfill the ambition of being a national powerhouse.
"The key to the season is that we use the experience from last year and build upon that to continue to improve," says Head Coach Michael Chasson. "We have a base of five All-Americans and numerous veterans returning this season which makes this year's squad one of the most evenly distributed that we have had."
The first half of the season points towards the big meet in December at the Texas Invitational while the second half gears up for the Pac-10 (Championships) and NCAA Championships. The women will compete against some of the nation's best teams in dual meets that will feature key match ups for the Sun Devils as they prepare both physically and mentally for the end of the year. Prior to the Texas Invitational the squad will travel to the Midwest to compete at Indiana and Purdue, both very strong schools out of the Big Ten. They will also face off against Pac-10 foes USC and UCLA in fall dual meets where the strength and depth of the team will be tested. The Pac-10 schedule will provide the Sun Devils tough competition in dual meets as they take on Stanford and California in back-to-back home meets and round out the dual season with a trip to Arizona to take on the Wildcats in their final preparations for the Pac-10s and NCAAs.
"We want to peak at the most crucial times of year, which is why the schedule is set up this way," explains Chasson. "The dual meets prior to the Pac-10s and NCAAs will be a good competition to prepare our squad for the end of the season."
The women return a talented core and great depth throughout the events, with freestyle being the biggest strength for the women, particularly the 200 and 500 events.
A combination of experience and talented underclassmen will guide the sprinters this season, as the expectations will be high for the women. Senior Florencia Szigeti, school record holder in the 100 free and second on the Sun Devil all-time list in the 50 free, is the top returnee for the Sun Devils.
"Our best returning sprinter is Florencia (Szigeti)," said Chasson. "She is more of a 100 and 200 swimmer, but she has proven that she can sprint the shortest distance with success."
Incoming freshman and two-time high school All-American in the 100 free, Caitlin Andrew, will step in this season for the Sun Devils and make an immediate impact.
"Caitlin (Andrew) comes into her first season as a Sun Devil with the second-fastest 100 free time," said Coach Chasson. "As she gains experience in dual meets, I really look for her to play an integral role in the sprint core this season."
Adding to the mix in the sprints will be returning sophomores, Abra Armour and Jill Kripps, juniors, Laura Ullrich, Erin Baldinger and incoming freshman Lindsey Brown. They all saw limited action last season, and will be looked at to step up and provide depth for the Sun Devils in dual meets.
"Erin (Baldinger) improved a lot last season and over the summer in the 50 free," said Chasson. "I look for her to have a breakthrough year for us. Abra (Armour), Jill (Kripps), Laura (Ullrich) and Lindsey (Brown) all have the talent and with increased experience in dual meets I really look to them to improve and step up for us this season."
Middle Distance Freestyle
With Szigeti, reigning Pac-10 Champion and school record-holder in the 200 free, returning for the women, the middle distance freestyle events will be a strength for the Sun Devil squad. She is coming off a successful season and summer experience in the 2004 Olympics for Argentina and will be the cornerstone of the women's team this season.
"Florencia (Szigeti) is a proven competitor and champion," said Chasson. "Her winning mentality and the experience that she brings will help make middle distance a strength for this year's team."
Returning for the Sun Devils is sophomore Amanda Gillespie, who swam the last leg of the school-record setting 4x200 free relay last season. She will see more action in the 200 free this season and provide experience and depth. Kari Wilcox also returns this season for the women and will provide increased depth in the 200 free.
"Both Amanda (Gillespie) and Kari (Wilcox) are very solid 200 freestyle swimmers," Chasson said. "With them in the mix, I expect the middle distance core will be even stronger this season."
Adding increased depth for the Sun Devils is incoming freshmen, Sarah Fischer and Ellis Schieman. They will gain experience throughout the season and will make an impact for the team in dual meets. While junior Sally Brown will bring her competitive edge and experience to the women's squad. Also returning for the women t his season is junior Sandra Steffenson, who comes in ninth all-time in the 200 free.
Young and still developing is the best way to describe the women's distance freestyle. Junior Kathryn Henessy leads the way for the Sun Devil women returning as the fifth-fastest in ASU history in the 1650 (16:25.53). She has scored at NCAAs before and is looking to get back tto the national meet this season.
"Kathryn (Hennessy) is back for us this season and is strong in both distance events" Chasson said. "We feel she could score points for us at NCAAs."
Incoming freshman Fischer is very strong in the distance events. She is one of the swimmers that will add a dimension to the squad that hasn't been there in the recent past.
"Sarah (Fischer) is very good in distance events," said Chasson. "Her range tears up the distance and will add depth for us this season."
Adding more depth for the women's squad is Schieman, a multiple event Senior National qualifier. As she gains experience throughout the season in dual she is expected to help the team even more at the end of the season.
The women have a strong group of swimmers poised with potential returning this season. Leading the way in the backstroke is Baldinger who is the top swimmer in the 100 backstroke. She clocked a personal best last season (55.27) in the 100, placing her second in the ASU records book.
"We have a lot of potential in the backstroke area," Chasson said. "We sent Erin (Baldinger) to NCAAs last season and she continues to improve so I look for her to be even stronger this year."
Also returning for the Sun Devils is sophomore Amanda Gillespie. She comes into this season with a year of experience under her and swam a personal best in the 200 back last year at Pac-10s.
"Amanda (Gillespie) is a top returning swimmer for us in the 200 backstroke," said Chasson. "She has some of the best times on our team and has tremendous speed. We look for her to move up in this event this season."
Incoming freshman Andrew will play an integral role in the sprint backstroke. She is coming in with great ability to sprint and has a 100 backstroke time that would put her third on the all-time list. She was a three-time All-American and Regional Champion in high school in the 100 backstroke.
Adding more depth will be sophomore Carrissa Abe, incoming freshman Emlynn Tursick and senior Wilcox. Abe, who was injured most of last year, is coming back from her injury and will be looked at for production in the 100 back. Tursick, a national level swimmer out of high school, will see action in the backstroke events this season. Wilcox, an All-American her sophomore year, sat out last year but is returning this season and will add experience to the core of this group.
"With Carrissa (Abe) and Kari (Wilcox) returning after sitting out most of last season, we have much more experience and depth to throw into the mix in the backstroke," Chasson said. "Incoming freshman Emlynn (Tursick) has the potential to really make backstroke an area that will provide strength for this year's squad."
The Sun Devils return one of the top breaststrokers in the world in senior Ágnes Kovács where she will lead the women in the breaststroke again this season. Kovács is a three-time Olympian for Hungary, the 2000 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 200m breast and the school record-holder in the 200 (2:07.64) and second all-time in the 100 (59.92).
"Breaststroke is the event that has been dominated by Ágnes (Kovács) over the past few years," Chasson said. "She showed a lot at the Olympic Games this summer and we are looking for her to end her career at ASU on top."
Also returning for the women is sophomore Christine Creek, who clocked a personal best in the 200 last season, placing her ninth all-time in this event.
"Christine (Creek) is one of our top breaststrokers who can really step up for us this season," said Chasson. "She is still recovering for an injury and won't be at full strength until mid-season, but she has the ability to be at the top once she is back."
Adding more depth to the breaststroke is senior Cara DeVinny, who is coming back after a great summer. She will add experience and contribute in dual meets this season and look to add her name to the Top 10 list. Heidi Schmidt, a transfer from the University of the Pacific, is a very good sprint breaststroker who will provide critical depth in both the 100 and 200 events.
Gillespie and DeVinny return for the ASU women as the leaders in the butterfly. Gillespie is strong in the 100 and 200 fly, clocking the eighth-fastest 100 butterfly time in school history and swam a personal best in the 200 at Pac-10s. Devinny went to NCAAs last season and is in position to get back there this season.
"Amanda (Gillespie) and Cara (DeVinny) are our strongest butterflyers," Chasson said. "They were both at NCAAs last year and we look to have them both there again this season."
Adding more depth to the butterfly is senior Sarah Fischer in the 100 and incoming freshman Schieman whose best event right now is the 200 fly. Incoming freshman Andrew will have an important role in the butterfly, a state champion (Texas) in this event, coming in with a time that would put her third on the all-time list.
"I am really looking for Sarah (Fischer), Ellis (Schieman) and Caitlin (Andrew) to step in and contribute this season," said Chasson. "We have a lot of potential to make this a very strong aspect of this year's squad."
Kovács, the school record-holder in both the 200 (1:58.13) and 400 (4:10.77) IM, will lead the way for the Sun Devil women in this event. Kovács had a strong showing in the 2004 Summer Games in the 200 IM, placing fourth, and will use her experience and maturity to stand out in the IM events.
"Ágnes (Kovács) is the best IM swimmer in school history," said Chasson. "She brings the team a lot of experience and great racing ability. Her returning is a solid foundation for us."
Also returning for the women is DeVinny, who holds the fifth-fastest 400 IM time in school history (4:17.32). She is an experienced competitor who continues to show improvement.
"Cara (DeVinny) is a top 400 IM swimmer," Chasson said. "She qualified for NCAAs last season and I expect that she will be even better this year."
Wilcox, who sat out last season, had NCAA consideration times her freshman and sophomore years in the IM events and will be looked at to produce at that level again this season. She is sixth all-time in the 200 and ranks as the tenth-fastest in school history in the 400.
Providing more depth for the Sun Devil women are Gillespie, Creek, Schmidt and Brown. All are proven swimmers and will give more experience and different looks for the squad in this event.
"Amanda (Gillespie), Christine (Creek), Heidi (Schmidt), and Sally (Brown) all swim good IMers and can step up to provide depth," said Chasson. "We have more depth in the 200, but with Ágnes and Cara being proven competitors and the help of Gillespie, Brown, Creek and Wilcox, our 400 should be strong as well."
The women return three of the four members of the school-record setting 800 free relay from last season with Kovács, Szigeti and Gillespie back on the roster. They lose Banovic off the relay, but return several women with the talent and ability to step into her place. The 800 free relay will be a strength for the team this season.
"The 800 free relay smashed the school-record last season by seven seconds and is returning this year as a strength for us," Chasson said. "We lost Petra (Banovic) to graduation, but we have several women returning who could solidify the relay. I think we can be even better this year."
The 400 free and 400 medley relays have the potential for success this year with the caliber of swimmers returning as well as the crew of newcomers, all with the talent and ability to step up in the relay events.
"We have very strong freestyle swimmers that can step up and perform in the 400 free," said Chasson. "The medley relay has a solid core returning from last season and if the backstroke leg develops as we anticipate it will, I foresee this relay scoring points at NCAAs this season."
The 200 free relay has a lot of potential. With Szigeti and a strong group of sophomores and incoming freshmen this could be an exciting event for the Sun Devils.
"We are looking for our sprinters to step up," said Chasson. "The 200 free relay could turn into a strength for us this season."
The women come into the new season with a talented and experienced core of divers, losing only one to graduation. The Sun Devil women will have tough competition as they gear up for the Pac-10 and NCAA Championships at the end of the season. Pac-10 dual meets with UCLA, USC and Arizona will be key match-ups for the women as they enter into the championship part of the season.
"The schedule for the women will be more competitive within the conference," Head Coach Mark Bradshaw said. "The UCLA and USC meets are big dual meets for us. Those are meets we want to perform well in. I think UCLA is a big one for us this season. The talent level is there for us. We just have to perform."
Leading the way for the Sun Devils is senior All-American Trisha Tumlinson who comes off a season where she saw much success. Tumlinson rounded our her season with a second place finish in the platform event at the NCAAs and won Pac-10 titles in the platform and 3m events as well as placing first in the platform and 1m events and the Zone E meet. She earned Pac-10 Diver of the Year Honors and is currently the holder of four ASU school records.
"Trisha (Tumlinson) had a great collegiate season last year," Bradshaw said. "This is her senior year and we are looking for her to end on a high note. Being runner-up at the NCAAs was the highlight for her. The competition is going to be tougher this season, but she will be a year older and can hopefully use her experience and maturity to duplicate what she did last season."
Sophomore Cassidy Farwell had a successful freshman campaign last season and looks to make even more strides this season. She was injured most of last season which hampered her training, but will be at full strength this season for the Sun Devils. Farwell is very strong in the platform event and has the talent and ability to make the 1m a strength as well and will look to make an impact at the Pac-10s in both.
"Cassidy (Farwell) had a very solid freshman year," said Bradshaw. "She is back at full strength this season and we will be able to get into a better position going into the Pac-10 Championships. We are looking at improving her consistency throughout the year in order to put her in position to make the finals in both the platform and the 1m at the conference meet."
Senior Nicole Zukowski, who was a walk-on for the diving team three years ago, has matured over the past few years and has made a tremendous impact on the success of the program. Zukowski scored points in many dual meets for the women's team last year as well as scoring in the Pac-10 meet for the Sun Devils.
"Nicole (Zukowski) has been an integral part of the diving program the past few years," said Bradshaw. "She has grown as a diver and has the ability to step up in her senior year and finish in the Top 16 at the Pac-10s."