Oct. 29, 2009
After failing to place at last season's NCAA Championships, the head coach of the Arizona State swimming programs made a bold statement about the women's team.
"I think, without a doubt, that we can be a top-10 program this year," said first-year head coach Dorsey Tierney-Walker. "This women's team, in my opinion, is at a much higher level than I expected coming in here, as far as skills, as far as talent and as far as expectation levels."
With several strong returnees to the team and the addition of a talented recruiting class, the Sun Devils do appear to be in good shape for a strong year. With a bit of development and a change in philosophy brought by the new coaching staff, Tierney-Walker believes the team could be competitive in every event and that the 2009-10 season Sun Devils could surprise the NCAA this season.
The sprint freestyle will be led by three upperclassmen in Katie Haron, Jess Perazzo and Samantha Caldwell. Perazzo earned All-American honors as a relay member her sophomore season and currently ranks fourth in the 50 freestyle and second in the 100 freestyle on ASU's top 10 list. Caldwell and Haron also have their name in the 50 free top-10 list. Freshman Shannon Landgrebe may also compete in the 100 free for the Sun Devils.
The middle-distance free events look to be especially strong with the addition of several talented freshmen. Headlined by Canadian national team member Paige Schultz and her fellow countrywoman Cassie Morrice, the Sun Devils look to be full of both talent and depth in the middle distance events. Accompanying the versatile Schultz and Morrice will be fellow freshman Shannon Langrebe and juniors Caldwell and Haron, who will compete in the 200 free. Senior Ashley Evans also looks to make an impact in the 200 free.
"Middle distance could be one of our better events this year," said Tierney-Walker. "I think our 200 and 500 freestyle are going to be extremely competitive this season."
Two veterans and a transfer make up the distance freestyle events. Shannon Garrett and Christine Mauro are expected to continue to improve in the 1000 and 1650 free while Washington transfer Ashley Daly is expected to be competitive in the mile. Morrice may also possibly compete in the longer distance events.
"Ashley [Daly] is very competitive in the mile and she loves to train for it and loves to do it," said Tierney-Walker. "It's her passion, which I think is significant when you are trying to develop a work ethic on the team."
The Stroke Events
With four strong competitors, one of the best individual events for ASU will be the 200 IM. Schultz, who is the 15-17 age group Canadian record-holder in the 200 IM, will be a force to be reckoned with. Evans, who is No. 4 on ASU's all-time list in the event, will keep attempting to inch up the record book her senior season. Another swimmer on the 200 IM's top 10 list, sophomore Penelope Yamauchi will also continue to improve and score the Sun Devils numerous points. Jordyn Green has also been working hard to improve her times. Schultz, Evans and Yamauchi can also move up to the 400 IM.
"We're a bit thinner in the 400 IM, but with Penelope developing that event, I think at the end of the season Penelope will be our best 400 IMer," said Tierney-Walker. "It's really a matter of where we want to put Paige, but we are pretty solid in the 200."
Led by two-time NCAA individual qualifier Ashton Aubry, the butterfly events will be one of the premier ones for the team this season. Aubry, who owns ASU's 200 fly record and is second in the 100 fly, will look to achieve All-American honors in her senior season. While Aubry is expected to be the leader of the stroke, two freshmen are also looked upon to make significant contributions. Caroline Kuczynski, who is the Florida state record holder in the 100 fly, will make an immediate impact as well as Lizzy Luttrell. Mirela Kardasevic will also help in the 100 fly.
"Ashton Aubry, in my opinion, is one of the best fliers in the country, she can be competitive with anyone," said Tierney-Walker. "Caroline will be a very significant contributor, especially in the 200 fly. We have a lot of very good 100 butterfliers and while we are slightly thinner in the 200 fly but we do have some young influence there."
Another potent stroke for the Sun Devils will be backstroke. Loaded with experienced returnees such as ASU record-holder Jamie Martinez and Sasha Stephens and supported by newcomers like Schultz and Luttrell, as well as Kardasevic the Sun Devils expect to turn some heads this season in the two events.
"Backstroke could be one of our best events this year, particularly the 200 backstroke with Sasha, Jamie and Paige," said Tierney-Walker. "Mimi [Mirela Kardasevic] is a little more comfortable in the 100 backstroke but can be competitive in the 200 as well. We're very solid in these events and very motivated within that group."
With Rebecca Edjervik able to compete this season, the Sun Devils will boast a strong training group in the breaststroke events. Edjervik, who has finaled at the international leader, is expected to lead the pack. She is supported by Green who made a name for herself last season as she qualified as an individual for the NCAA Championships and senior Sara McDaniel who earned All-American honors as a member of a relay team her freshman season.
"I think Rebecca is one of the best in the country at the 100 breaststroke and she is very excited to have the opportunity to compete this year," said Tierney-Walker. "She has a very professional approach and has really influenced the team in a positive way. Jordyn is even more motivated to final at the NCAA level this season and McDaniel is looking to contribute."
With a bit of development, Tierney-Walker expects the relays to be a strength of the team. The 800 free relay is expected to be extremely competitive at the NCAA level with the surplus of middle-distance freestylers. Tierney-Walker envisions a great deal of promise in the sprint freestyle relays with Aubry, McDaniel and Edjervik fighting for a spot to join Haron, Caldwell and Perazzo. The Sun Devils should also be competitive in the medley relays due to the mass amount of talent in the stroke events.
"We need to develop our skills in the relays; we need to develop exchanges; we need to develop relay philosophy," said Tierney-Walker. "I think we are a well-rounded team and this can be a very exciting year."