Women’s swim and dive sets sight on NESCAC and NCAA success

Riding the wave of last season’s success, women’s swim and dive begins its 2014-15 season with continued drive and determination. The team has put in two weeks of hard work, starting with their inaugural practice on Homecoming morning, and looks forward to the start of competition

Life on the pool deck has looked a little different this season than in years past because of the conspicuous absence of Head Coach Steve Kuster. Starting in September, Kuster has been on sabbatical in Australia with his family, recharging after 14 successful seasons with the Ephs and gearing up for many more to come. In his absence, previous Assistant Coach Nick Stone has risen to the challenge of leading the team, accompanied by Gary Roberson ’11, a 17-time all-American and 2011 NCAA Div. III champion in the 200 freestyle. Stone’s previous two seasons with the team have made this transition a smooth one, and while the team is excited for Kuster’s return in mid-December, there is plenty of work to do before then.

Last year, the women bid farewell to a small but mighty senior class that included tri-captains Alyssa Levine ’14, McKenzie Murdoch ’14 and Stephanie Nguyen ’14, all of whom made significant contributions to the program over their four years.
All were instrumental in last season’s 790.5-point win over Amherst at the NESCAC Championships, with Levine recognized as the fourth-highest point-scoring swimmer in the conference and Murdoch as the highest point-scoring diver. The loss of this class will be felt strongly in the butterfly and backstroke events, where Levine and Nguyen excelled, and on the boards, where Murdoch dominated.

While the graduation of these women cannot be overlooked, they leave behind a strong, deep squad of women determined to maintain their hold on the NESCAC title. The team is led by co-captain Sarah Thompson ’15 and co-captain Erica Bucki ’15, both of whom have packed powerful punches over their last three years at Williams. Bucki has had consistently strong performances at each NESCAC championship, and Thompson has repeatedly shown her ability to shine on the NCAA stage.

Led by these powerhouses and complimented by suitably strong classes across the board, the team looks primed for success. Returning heavy-hitters include Katie Bennett ’16, who finished third overall in the 200 backstroke at NCAAs last season and who will be counted on to continue her highly successful career in the backstroke events. Megan Pierce ’17, who holds an NCAA Div. III national title in the 400 IM from last season, also returns to help bolster the Ephs.

Replacing Murdoch on the boards this year will be Michelle Higgins ’15 and Arianna Ross ’17. Both placed competitively at last year’s NESCAC Championship, and Higgins placed ninth overall at last year’s NCAA Div. III Championship.

“After such an amazing season last year, we are all excited to keep the momentum going,” Bucki said.

On Friday, the women open the season against Springfield at 6 p.m. at the Samuelson-Muir pool before travelling to Union on Saturday for a 1 p.m. dual meet.