TAKING OVER THE HELM
Several coaching changes took place since the 2019 high school girls swimming season concluded, one of which occurred at Lauralton Hall. Fran Pfeiffer who coached at Lauralton Hall for 25 successful seasons, retired and has been replaced by his longtime assistant, Paul Katz.
Pfeiffer coached Lauralton Hall to seven state titles during his tenure — four in Class S and three in Class M.
Katz was an assistant on Pfeiffer’s coaching staff for six seasons. His daughter, a 2015 Lauralton Hall graduate, swam for the squad, his first season as an assistant coach.
“I am pleased to be taking over the reigns,” Katz said. “With six years of coaching with Fran and getting to know the school, I am comfortable on that end of things.”
The upcoming season is particularly challenging for first-year coaches, due to the numerous safety guidelines in place, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Things are new and there’s a lot of work to do, but that’s not stopping our team,” said Katz, who swam at Yale University and coached at LaSalle University. “We are in a region with very good teams, so I’m pleased with the list of teams we will be competing against.”
Lauralton Hall was the runner-up to Weston in the team standings at the Class S Championships in 2019.
At Seymour, Patrick DiCaprio stepped down after two seasons at the helm. He also served as an assistant coach of the squad for three seasons.
DiCaprio guided the Wildcats to two undefeated regular seasons and one NVL championship (2018). Nick Blade, who swam at Southern Connecticut State University, where he graduated from in 2015, takes over as Seymour’s coach. Blade, a Seymour native, was the assistant coach of Seymour’s boys swimming team.
In Ridgefield, Paul Marchese takes over the program for Emmanuel Lanzo, who coached the Tigers the previous four seasons. Lanzo, who also coached Ridgefield’s boys team, was named the FCIAC Coach of the Year in 2019.
A graduate of Masuk High School, Marchese swam at Roger Williams University. He graduated from Roger Williams in 2018.
A LOOK AT THE REGIONS
Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, teams in the state have been divided into regions. The schools in each region are close geographically in order to limit travel. Here’s a look at some of the regions.
The SCC-A region that was formed includes Cheshire, Amity, Daniel Hand, Lauralton Hall, Hamden, North Haven, Jonathan Law and Mercy. So there will be some good rivalry meets involved in this region.
The NVL-City region includes Seymour, Woodland, Naugatuck, Oxford and Watertown, so the Seymour-Woodland rivalry remains intact.
The SWC-North features Pomperaug, Brookfield, Newtown, Masuk, New Fairfield and New Milford — all rivals — while Weston, Bunnell, Bethel, Stratford and Joel Barlow comprise the SWC-South.
In the FCIAC-West region, rivals Greenwich, New Canaan, Darien and Westhill-Stamford will face each other.
IN-PERSON, OR VIRTUAL?
Since the majority of high schools don’t have their own pool and the facilities they practice and normal hold meets at have issued restrictions due to COVID-19, there will be a mix of in-person and virtual meets this fall.
Schools with pools such as North Haven and Greenwich are planning to host in-person meets at their facilities. Some teams who swim at facilities outside of their school are likely to go the virtual route.
Since some meets this fall will take place virtually, with two teams swimming at their own location, athletes psyching themselves up for a meet could be an issue. Also, spectators won’t be allowed at most venues.
“The biggest goal this season besides staying in the pool for the entire season, is to make sure the girls challenge themselves like never before,” Trumbull coach Bill Strickland said. “Swimming meets against an invisible competitor is going to be tough. Nonetheless, it is great the girls are in the pool and our goal is to continue to train and keep them focused for whatever kind of meets we have this season.”
Having the opportunity to hold a season could be motivation enough for the swimmers and divers.
“The biggest takeaway I have so far this year is how much the girls are happy just to be back together,” Masuk coach Mark McKee said. “They are a bit sad that there’s not going to be SWC’s or states, but just to be together as a team feels like winning.”
ALL-AMERICA APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED
Each year, numerous athletes from Connecticut earn spots on the NISCA All-America swimming and diving list, due to their performances during the high school season.
Regarding virtual meets this fall, the NISCA will accept results from a virtual swim meet for All- America Swimming and Diving applications or NISCA National Records. Conditions must be met in order for such applications to be accepted. The course must be the same at each site — all teams must compete in either a yard or meter pool. Also, the virtual meet between two or more teams must have all the teams competing on the same day and automatic timing is required.