By John Goralski
Farmington swimmers battled for first place in the opening relay, but it was already clear that Southington was the team to beat. The Indian anchor tipped the wall at the end of the medley relay, but there were Lady Knight swimmers on either side of her at the finish.
Sure, the Indians took an early two-point lead after one event, but that was the last time that they would be ahead in the conference opener. Southington finished first in every race that followed except for one. The Knights scored three times in every event, while Farmington eked out just two scores in every race.
The 8-6 lead evaporated after the second event, and Southington extended their winning streak to seven meets with a 95-73 win.
“I knew going in that this was going to be the best chance against Farmington that we’ve ever had, but I still knew that our girls were going to have to perform and be our best,” said Lady Knight swim coach Evan Tuttle. “That’s exactly what they were able to do.”
Bailey Potter gave Southington the lead for good with a victory in the 200 freestyle (2:14.27), and she went on to qualify for states with a second place finish in the 100 backstroke (1:06.7).
Marisa Matthew scored wins in the 200 medley (2:28.83) and the 100 breaststroke (1:12.81). Olivia Fournier snatched victories in the 50 freestyle (26.15) and the 100 freestyle (56.33). Sam Sagnella won the 100 butterfly (1:08.12). Kerry Buchanan scored a win in the 500 freestyle (5:59.39), and Southington put the meet away with a 1-2 finish in the 200 freestyle relay.
“Taking first in every event puts you in a great position, but if you can avoid taking that sixth place in each event it really adds up at the end,” said Tuttle. “That’s one point for you, and one point that they don’t get in every event and it’s huge. We were able to use our numbers and depth to our advantage, and that’s something we’ve been able to do all year. It was great to see it come through in such a big rivalry.”
In fact, Southington swimmers were able to capture first and second place in four different races. The Knights battled for four third place and fourth place finishes and six fifth place scores. Southington opened a five point lead at the break and stretched it to 28 points before they called off the dogs.
“It wasn’t just our first places, and we had some phenomenal races. It was about avoiding last place in every event. Even in our relays, we were able to put up a lot of points really quick,” said Tuttle. “I had mapped out the meet several different ways, and every way that I planned it out, it went down to the last relay. In one scenario, we won by two points. In another one we tied, and in another one we lost by two points. No matter how I figured the lineup, I knew that it was going to be close.”
But it wasn’t. The 14-point win was the first against the Indians in Tuttle’s career, and it stretched Southington’s record to 7-0.
“We knew going into this that Farmington is one of those teams that we’ve always been able to battle, but we’ve always come up short,” said the coach. “We haven’t beaten them in about a decade, so we knew that this was an opportunity to be special.”
Two days later, Southington’s streak came to an end, but it didn’t come without a fight. Olivia Fournier (25.82) edged Marisa Matthews (26.68) for a 1-2 finish in the 50 freestyle, but Hall rallied to a 93-82 win. The loss was the first for Southington (7-1), but Tuttle said that it was even closer than the final score.
“We still don’t have our divers ready for the board yet, so I knew that we were going into the meet already chasing points,” said the coach. “But even with that I thought we had our chances. It would have definitely taken something special to beat a team like Hall, but they were able to put in a lot of great times to beat us.”
Now, the Knights will look to carry that momentum into next week as the girls host Newington on Wednesday. With future match-ups against Conard, Hall, and Plainville, it won’t get any easier, but the victory against Farmington proves that this could be a breakout year when it counts—in the postseason.
“We’re 7-1, but it’s really about the way that we’ve been able to win,” said Tuttle. “We’ve been having competitive battles in the pool. We’re winning close races, and our team attitude on the deck has really made it special…so far.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By John Goralski