by Patrick Gustavson
Following a lengthy road-trip that saw them fall to three opposing schools, the Central Connecticut swimming and diving team returned home to a packed Jack Suydam Natatorium to take on Sacred Heart.
The team scored a decisive victory against the Pioneers, by a score of 122-58, placing first in eight of the ten events that night.
Following the defeats, head swimming coach Bill Ball believed his team brought a different energy to this meet.
“We were a lot more focused, a lot more intensity. We always seem to do that at home: they just get more fired up with their friends and their parents in the stands,” Ball said.
The team also honored its five seniors: Maeve Awiszus, Lauren Czulewicz, Annemarie Durham, Maddy Garber and Luna Milne.
Ball attributes some of the team’s improved performance to the desire to win for their seniors.
“Senior day is always pretty emotional and pretty exciting for the team. They always want to perform better for that group,” Ball stated.
Garber could be considered the star of the meet, being a part of the squad that kicked off the meet with a victory in the 200-yard medley relay. She also won the 50-yard breaststroke in just over 30 seconds.
Czulewicz posted two runner-up finishes in the 50-yard and 100-yard freestyles, respectively.
“She [Czulewicz] made a huge step in the right direction in her 100-free. She’s really going to be a force to be reckoned with at conferences,” Ball said of Czulewicz’s performance.
Durham, the team’s lone diver, won decisively in the one-meter dive, by a score of 262-153, adding nine points to her team’s total. She missed a significant amount of time in the fall semester due to a concussion, but Ball believes she has come back nicely.
The seniors were not the only key contributors for the Blue Devils; sophomore Valentina Gomez won two events on the night- the 50-yard butterfly and the 200-yard freestyle. She was also a part of the aforementioned 200-yard medley relay squad.
Junior Kaitlyn Troy was the other Blue Devil to win an individual event, taking first place in the 50-yard backstroke.
Though Ball still believes his team has a lot of work to do, the victory is a massive step in the right direction, with the Northeast Conference championships just under one month away.
“We’ve got about two more weeks of solid training, then we’ve got to start resting,” he said. “Make sure that we do all the little things right, kind of like we did today. With more rest, we’ll be stronger, powerful, we’ll have more speed.”
Despite winning three straight NEC championships, Ball has no expectations for his team going into this year’s meet.
“We’re going to need a lot of help to win it this year, a lot of help from other teams stealing points from each other. We’re going to perform better, probably better than we ever have,” Ball said.
The team’s final regular season meet takes place on Feb. 3, on the road against LIU, Brooklyn. Following the meet, the team will prepare for the NEC championships, which start on Feb. 21.