GAINESVILLE, Fla. – After an unmatched 2012-13 season marked by NCAA postseason appearances, a sweep of the top Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) honors and a fifth-consecutive CCSA Championship title, the FGCU women’s swimming & diving team officially opens its 2013-14 campaign at the three-day Pinch A Penny All Florida Invitational, beginning on Friday at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville.
Attended by a vast majority of The Sunshine State’s top teams, the annual event serves as an early indicator of who can compete with whom. This year’s field includes Florida State, Miami, Florida Southern, North Florida, Nova Southeastern and host Florida - who placed sixth at last season’s NCAA National Championships.
“We’re looking forward to starting the season against this competitive field of instate rivals,” head coach Neal Studd said. “For us, this weekend is a chance to show that while we did graduate a group of talented seniors last season, we gained valuable recruits and we’re still a leading program. This meet is a battle for state pride. We’ve proven that we can hang with the top of the pack, now we just have to show that we’re not going anywhere.”
This weekend marks the fourth year FGCU has competed in the invite, finishing third in 2012 and 2011 and fourth in 2010. For the past two years the top-four overall finishes have been identical with Florida at the lead, followed by FSU, FGCU and then Miami, only further proving the Eagles’ ability to compete with the state’s high-major programs.
Four-time CCSA Coach of the Year Neal Studd welcomes an astonishing 15 new additions to this season’s squad and returns 20 veterans, including team-leader Emma Svensson (Uppsala, Sweden/Celsiusskolan).
A sophomore slump? More like triumph. In a mere two seasons, Emma Svensson is well on her way to becoming the most-decorated swimmer, and possibly athlete, in FGCU history. After two trips to NCAA Championships, four FGCU records and five CCSA honors the 2013 NCAA elite 89 award winner enters her junior year with plans to continue shining in 50 free and 100 back while maintaining her 4.0 GPA in economics.
Relocation to Eagle Nation
Over the summer SwimSwam.com released a ranking of the 2013 NCAA women’s swimming recruiting classes with FGCU claiming the No. 12 slot. The 15 newcomers are a mixture of nine freshman and six transfers. Leading the pack are international sensations junior Nina Schiffer (Dortmund, Germany/SG Dortmund) and freshman Kira Toussaint (Amstelveen, Netherlands/Keizer Karel College). Schiffer represented Germany in the 2008 Olympics and has previously posted times that if duplicated will put her in the FGCU record book. Joining Schiffer is Toussaint or known in her home country as “the fastest Dutch backstroker in history.” In November 2012, Toussaint set the Netherlands 100m backstroke record posting a 57.16 during the European Championships Short Course Swimming in Chartres, France.
The Fab Five
Leading the team, while looking to soak in every minute of their final season, are seniors McKenzie Cassidy (Lehigh Acres, Fla./Bishop Verot), Tryshia Centeno Rosa (Aguas Buenas, Puerto Rico/Auburn University), Lindsey Meeder (Boynton Beach, Fla./Park Vista), Jessie Porter (Chorleywood, Hertforshire, United Kingdom/Royal Masonic) and Christina Tanninen (Burlington, Ontario/Nelson), who together have etched a total 22 marks in FGCU’s all-time record book.
One-Two in Green and Blue
Led by Svensson, this year’s roster names 12 juniors including Cayla Collins (Largo, Fla./Osceola), Heather Coutts (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny/Houston), Maggie Holling (West Palm Beach, Fla./John I Leonard), Taylor Malewicki (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny), Charlie Molenda (Middletown, R.I./Middletown), Cassie Niles (Helotes, Texas/Sandra Day O'Connor), Devon Robins (London, United Kingdom/The Grey Coat Hospital), Natalie Rochette (Naples, Fla./Community School of Naples),Schiffer, Blaine Small (Glenrothes, Fife, United Kingdom/Kelly College) and Karen Vilorio (Tegucigalpa, Honduras/Elvel School).
With a year of experience under their belts, the Eagles nine sophomores are Lani Cabrera (Barbados/St. Ursala's Secondary School), Kristen Goodson (Fort Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot/UConn), Sara Hamilton (Stonehaven, Scotland/Mackie Academy), Victoria Ho (West Palm Beach, Fla./Seminole Ridge HS/University of Florida), Alexis Johnson (Melbourne, Fla./Eau Gallie HS), Meghan McGuirk (Plaistow, N.H./Peddie School), Samantha Rahael (Trinidad &Tobago/The Bolles School), Kellie Roedig (Huntingdon Valley, Pa./Abington Senior HS) and Ellen Vann (Battle Creek, Mich./Lakeview HS).
Making a name for themselves in The Nest are nine rookies that helped FGCU compile the twelfth-ranked recruiting class. Lead by Toussaint the class of 2017 includes Mikaila Buening (Franklin, Ind./Franklin Community HS), Caroline Hamilton (Davidsonville, Md./Archbishop Spalding HS), Evita Leter (Paramaribo, Suriname/Doral Academy), Marcella Marinheiro (Davie, Fla./West Broward HS), Claudia Reyes (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), Emily Slater (Wildwood, Mo./Lafayette HS), Hannah Soutar (Edinburgh, Scotland/Broughton HS) and Sandra Wilk (Lexington, Ky./Paul Lawrence Dunbar HS).
Tribe of Five Set to Dive
Unlike the rest of the team, for Buening, Collins, Johnson, Malewicki and Slater making a splash is something to fear and the battle to drop one-tenth of a second is nonexistent. Led by reigning CCSA Diving Coach of the Year David Boyko, the five blondes that make up the FGCU diving team aim for 10s to start the season.
The fourth annual three-day meet will feature seven programs from the state of Florida visiting the O’Connell Center. The event will consist of morning preliminary sessions each day and finals sessions each evening. Diving will take place approximately one hour after the morning sessions on Friday and Saturday. A complete schedule of events is listed below.
Go Eagles, Go America
New this year, spectators are given the opportunity to give back to our great nation as meet representatives will be collecting new and unused items to be sent to deployed US Troops in all branches of the service. The first 250 fans that donate will receive a Pinch A Penny All Florida Invitational military appreciation shirt. Examples of items to donate are – protein bars, coffee, nuts, gum or hard candy, tissues, used DVDs and board games.
Follow the Eagles
The meet will be broadcast on the Florida Swim Network starting Friday at 7:00 p.m. and continuing Saturday and Sunday at 4:00 p.m. The broadcast can be seen here: http://FloridaSwimNetwork.com
For complete coverage of FGCU women’s swimming and diving over the weekend, follow us on Twitter @FGCU_WSWIM and visit www.FGCUAthletics.com where full recaps and results will be available at the end of each day.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
Friday, September 27:
Prelims 10:00 a.m., Finals 7:00 p.m.
200 Free Relay
1 Meter Diving
400 Medley Relay
Saturday, September 28:
Prelims 9:00 a.m., Finals 4:00 p.m.
200 Medley Relay
3 Meter Diving
800 Free Relay
Sunday, September 29:
Prelims 9:00 a.m., Finals 4:00 p.m.
400 Free Relay