Golden Grizzlies Look to Upperclassmen for Title Defense
Last year the Oakland University swimming and diving teams were looking to establish an identity and the Golden Grizzlies found one. The womens team established itself as the team to beat in 2000-01 as the Grizzlies won the Mid-Continent Conference (Mid-Con) Championship and finished second behind Cincinnati in the National Independent Conference (NICs). Oakland finished last year with a 5-4 dual meet record as they were 4-1 at the OU Aquatics Center. The Golden Grizzlies are looking to improve on last year's record and come closer to achieving the ultimate goal of being a top 30 team in the country.
"The girls had an exceptional season last year ... one of the best in a long time," said head coach Pete Hovland. "We set numerous school records and with winning the Mid-Cons and finishing second at the NICs, I think the girls are headed in the right direction.
"In OU swimming & diving, we have three goals every year," said Hovland. "First we are going to focus on the Mid-Con Championship, second we want to climb the ladder at the NICs and if we do that we will be closer to the third goal, which is to become a top 30 team in the country."
The Golden Grizzlies made another step in their efforts to win the NICs and become a top 30 team in their scheduling.
"Its obvious we have improved our schedule with swimming against the Michigan States and Miamis of the world," said Hovland. "Another thing we have changed is that we are going to send three women, along with five men, to the U.S. Open which is the same time as the Mid-Con Championship. Some people question the decision, but its something we have to do to get people to recognize Oakland University nationally."
Last year the women's squad was in a transition period as this is the second season with Hovland at the helm.
"Last year was a transition year with both programs merging together and having one staff," said Hovland. "We had some problem's last year because of the transition. I felt my staff did a great job and the swimmers responded well. The swimmers and staff are going to have a lot of confidence this year and its only going to get better. With moving Nate Murphy and Katie Szopo from undergrad assistants to graduate assistants, assistant coach Jon Teal and diving coach Tony Venticinque both in their second year at the collegiate level thats going to do nothing but help us."
Leading the Golden Grizzlies in the 2001-02 season will be seniors Sara Harley, Tamara Swaby and junior Danielle Ward.
Harley, a three-year letterwinner for the Grizzlies will swim in the backstroke and freestyle her senior season. The Rockford native finished second in the 100 back at the Mid-Con Championship with a time of 1:00.24. Harleys top finish in the freestyle came at the Mid-Con Championship in the 100 free as she finished ninth with a time of 56.16.
Swaby, a three-year letterwinner from Jamaica, will swim in the butterfly and freestyle events her senior season for OU. The Kingston, Jamaica native was named the Mid-Continent Conference Swimmer of the Year in 2001-02 for her outstanding efforts. Swabys top times include finishing third in the 50 free at the NICs with a time of 23.83. Swaby finished first in the 200 fly at the Mid-Con Championship with a time of 2:05.96.
Ward, a two-year letterwinner for the Grizzlies, will return as OUs top freestyle swimmer in 2001-02. The Brighton native broke four school records last year in the 200, 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyle events. She finished second at the NICs in the 200 and 500 free with a time of 1:49.56 and 4:51.64, respectively.
Leading the Oakland freestylers will be Kelly Carlin, Heather Kelly, Jessica Lau, Kristen Lesnau, Jordan Longhurst, Angela Simetkosky, Anita Stefonovic, Oksana Strelets, Swaby and Ward.
Carlin finished in eighth place last year at the NICs in the 200 free with a time of 1:54.87. The Novi, Michigan native will also swim the backstroke this year for the Grizzlies in addition to the freestyle events. Carlin placed 12th at the NICs in the 200 back with a time of 2:11.02.
Kelly, a three-year letterwinner will swim the freestyle events for the Golden Grizzlies in her senior year. The Trenton, Michigan native finished fifth in the 1650 freestyle at the Mid-Con Championships with a time of 18:41.64. Kelly also finished third in the 200 back against Miami with a time of 2:21.26. Kelly will also swim in the 200 and 400 IM in 2001-02. She finished second in the 200 IM at the Mid-Con Championships with a time of 2:13.48.
Lau, a junior from Troy, will add depth to the freestyle events for the Grizzlies in 2001-02. Along with the freestyle, Lau will also swim the breaststroke and the individual medley. Laus Top finish in the freestyle events came in the 1000 free as she finished sixth against Eastern Michigan with a time of 11:11.54. Her top finish in the breaststroke came in the 100 breast against Cincinnati with a time of 1:15.31.
Lesnau, a three-year letterwinner for the Grizzlies, will contribute to the Grizzlies freestyle arsenal along with swimming the breaststroke events. The Troy natives top time in the freestyle events came in the 1000 free against Cincinnati as she finished in fifth place with a time of 11:50.14. Lesnaus finish in the breaststroke came in the Mid-Con Championship in the 200 breast as she finished second with a time of 2:27.80.
Longhurst, in her third year for the Golden Grizzlies, will swim the freestyle and backstroke this season. Longhursts top finish in 2000-01 came in the 200 free against Kenyon College as she finished in fifth place with a 2:02.07. Her top finish in the backstroke came in the Mid-Con Championship as she finished in third place in the 100 back with a time of 1:00.25.
Simetkosky, in her second year for the Grizzlies, will contribute in the freestyle events as she had no finish higher than third place last year. The Livonia, Michigan native came in second place in the 500 free at the Mid-Con Championships with a time of 5:06.54. Simetkosky will also swim the butterfly events for OU in her sophomore season. She finished in third place at the Mid-Con Championships in the 200 fly with a 2:10.18.
Strelets, a sophomore from Kazakhstan, who set team top times both at the NICs in the 50 and 100 free with times of 23.16 and 50.43 respectively. Strelets also swam the backstroke for the Grizzlies. She finished first in the 100 back against Eastern Michigan with a 57.57 and also finished first against Cincinnati in the 200 back with a 2:07.23.
Stefonovic, a junior from Shelby Twp., will also add depth to OUs freestyle events. Stefonovics top finish last year came at the Mid-Con Championships as she finished fifth in the 500 free with a time of 5:22.52.
Newcomers Karoline Freytag, Holly Miller, Christina Moceri and Kelsey Withrow will look to contribute to the Grizzlies freestyle events.
Leading Oakland in the breaststroke is sophomore Shelley Aurit. The Batavia, Illinois native finished first in the 100 breast at the Mid-Con Championship with a 1:06.03. Aurit will also swim the individual medley for the Grizzlies as well. She finished first in the 400 IM against Wright State with a 4:41.69.
Also contributing in the OUs breatstroke events will be Jessica Lau and freshman Lindsay Unrath.
Top returners in the butterfly is sophomore Tanya Korniyenko and junior Jennifer MacDonald, along with tri-captain Tamara Swaby.
Korniyenko, a one-year letterwinner for the Grizzlies, had a great freshman season as she came in first place in the 100 and 200 fly at the NICs with times of 55.43 and 2:02.75 respectively.
MacDonald, a junior from Bloomfield Twp., finished in third place against Miami in the 100 fly with a time of 1:01.80. MacDonald also finished fifth in the 200 fly against Kenyon with a time of 2:14.32.
The backstroke will look to the senior leadership of Marla McKenzie during the 2001-02 season. Also in the backstroke will be freshman Tara Berringer and Renie Green.
McKenzie, a three-year letterwinner for the Golden Grizzlies finished in eighth place against the Eagles of Eastern Michigan in the 200 back with a time of 2:23.06.
In diving the Grizzlies will look to senior Devon Cunningham to leadership. Also diving will be junior Leslie Purucker and sophomore Katie Livingston.
Cunningham, a three-year letterwinner for Oakland will look to break school diving records including her own three-meter diving record of 298.75, which she set in 1998. Last year Cunningham owned every diving top score in the one and three-meter diving, along with the platform diving at the NICs.
Purucker, a junior from Concord, Michigan will enter her third year as a diver for Oakland. Purucker finished fourth in the one-meter (6) with 208.65 points.
Livingston, a sophomore from Trenton top finish came in the Mid-Con Championship as came in fifth place in the one-meter diving (10) with 319.15.
With six seniors and seven juniors the Grizzlies will look to upper classmen in defending their Mid-Continent Conference Championship. The Grizzlies established their own identity last year and now look to raise the bar and become a top 30 team in the Country.
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