By John Goralski
Southington faced two rivals to start the fall campaign. Both presented different challenges. Both ended the same.
The Lady Knights won easily, qualified swimmers for the postseason, and turned to exhibition races with at least two events remaining.
“We’re doing it the right way,” said Southington swim coach Evan Tuttle. “That comes in the manner of cheering, respect, shaking hands, and being respectful—not only for our team—but for both teams on the pool deck. I’m glad to say that we’ve been complimented on our sportsmanship from the referees, opposing coaches, and opposing parents, as well…We’re off to a good start.”
The Hartford team brought only eight or nine swimmers, and that was the challenge at the opener on Wednesday, Sept. 17. How would the Lady Knights fare without a large opponent pushing them?
“I’m proud of our girls,” said Tuttle. “Regardless of whether we’re swimming a team with eight or a team of 50 like us, we’re ready to go and ready to compete. We were ready to do that.”
The Knights wasted no time. Annelise Alfieri, Bethany Greenlaw, Sam Sagnella, and Jennifer Monte kicked off the meet with a win in the 200 medley relay (2:16.0), and Southington never trailed.
The Lady Knights won all but one event and cruised to a 95-38 win. Marisa Matthews qualified for the state meet with her win in the 50 freestyle (26.18), and freshman Olivia Fournier scored a state qualifying time with her victory in the 100 freestyle (56.14).
“It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that they both qualified in our first meet, and they’re both going to just get stronger from here,” said Tuttle. “As I’m able to get them in different events, I fully expect to qualify them in other events as well. We’ve got some options.”
Five other Knights captured individual wins. Bailey Potter won the 200 freestyle (2:16.01). Sam Sagnella captured the 100 fly (1:12.18), and Kerry Buchanan won the 500 freestyle (5:58.72). Ally Schroeder won the 100 back (1:08.41), and Sam Jones scored first place in the 100 breast (1:29.0).
Southington also swept the relays. Fournier and Matthews partnered with Julia Mularczyk and Hannah Olsen to win the 200 free relay (1:53.57), and they teamed up with Ashley Christensen and Gina Calo to score first place in the 400 freestyle relay (4:09.82).
On Friday, it was a much different challenge when Windsor Locks-Ellington-East Granby arrived. Southington still had numbers, but the Windsor Locks co-op was top-loaded with state level competition.
“I think we actually split the events with our wins, but the ultimate difference was the number of girls we have that can compete at that higher level,” said Tuttle. “That isn’t something that Southington has always been able to say, but I’m comfortable saying it this early in the year and the past couple years.”
Once again, Matthews qualified for the state meet, this time with a win in the 100 breaststroke (1:12.21). This time, she was a double winner with another victory in the 50 free (26.77).
Fournier scored first place again in the 100 free (57.15), and Potter captured the title in the 100 backstroke (1:08.03).
But Southington’s depth showed with a clean sweep of the relay events.
Matthews and Fournier partnered with Schroeder and Sagnella to trim more than 14 seconds off their previous time and win the 200 medley relay (2:01.96).
Matthews partnered with Bethany Greenlaw, Olsen, and Buchanan to win the 200 free rleay (1:54.09). Fournier teamed up with Buchanan, Potter, and Schroeder to score first place in the 400 freestyle relay (3:55.15).
Now, the Knights (2-0) will look to carry the momentum into this week with a conference matchup against Manchester and a regional rivalry against Bristol Eastern.