North Haven sported a 6-0 record heading into Tuesday’s meet against powerhouse Cheshire, with its signature victory coming against Lauralton Hall — a team that certainly had its number in previous seasons.
“In years past, we have come so close to beating Lauralton Hall, but we had never gotten the win,” North Haven girls swimming coach Martha Phelan said. “Lauralton Hall is a very deep team, a great team.”
When North Haven and Lauralton Hall met on Oct. 1 in a meet held at Foran High School, Phelan’s squad earned its long-awaited win against their SCC rival.
Winning eight events, North Haven posted a 98-88 victory, one that according to Phelan, was its first ever win against the Crusaders.
“Before the meet, we went through the lineup and we told each girl what their role was,” Phelan said. “It was projected that we had an edge on them in points and when we went to the meet, there were a lot of nerves. Our team, of course, realized it was a big deal.”
Senior Angela Gambardella finished first in the 200-yard individual medley (2:15.06) and 100 breaststroke (1:08.72), while junior Maddie Bergin won the 50 freestyle (2:15.06) and 100 freestyle to spark North Haven’s win.
Ava Santacroce, a senior, was the diving winner (222.30) and freshman Mikayla Rapuano placed first in the 100 butterfly (1:04.56) for North Haven, which also won the 200 medley relay (1:55.05) and the 200 freestyle relay (1:44.20).
“Everyone did exactly what I hoped they would do and we secured the win,” Phelan said. “It was a great experience for the team, which showed their ability to perform, even with nerves and to swim through those nerves to accomplish their goal. Lauralton Hall has a legacy of great swimming, so the win was very rewarding for our team going forward. It was a great way to prepare for our next meet.”
North Haven’s next challenge occurred Tuesday in the form of undefeated, defending SCC champion Cheshire.
“We are prepared to swim fast, but understand how deep and talented Cheshire is,” Phelan said. “It’s an opportunity to post personal-best times against a perennial powerhouse that had dominated the SCC.”
In their six victories so far this season, the Indians have displayed their depth.
“It was the girls that came in third, fourth and fifth place who helped us get that win against Lauralton Hall,” Phelan said. “We only won by 10 points and they really came through.”
Gambardella has been coming through for the Indians for since her freshman season. The University of Connecticut-bound swimmer has built upon a junior season in which she finished third in the 200-yard IM at the State Open Championships (2:05.74) and place second in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.44).
She won the 2018 Class M title in the 200 IM (2:06.46) and was the champion in the 100 breaststroke (1:03.63). At last season’s SCC Championships, Gambardella claimed the individual medley and breaststroke titles.
“Angela Gambardella has been a gift to the program,” Phelan said. “She has gotten better each year and has posted better and better times. She can do anything that is asked of her.”
Gambardella has also keyed the team’s 200 medley relay and 200 freestyle relay squads, which captured the first-place medal at the Class M championships a year ago.
“Each meet I watch her I savor,” Phelan said. “I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to coach her.”
Bergin was sixth at last year’s State Open in the 50 freestyle (24.03) and placed fifth in the 100 freestyle (52.75). She won both events at the 2018 Class M finals.
“Maddie has gotten better each year and she performs when you need her,” Phelan said. “She too has that amazing component to perform on relays. In the last two years, we have shattered our records at big events, because of Maddie and Angela.”
Santacroce, who will take her diving skills to Central Connecticut State, recently broke her own school record. She placed fourth at the 2018 Class M finals and was 12th at the State Open.
“Her dive list has gotten more difficult and it’s showing in her scores,” Phelan said. “Diving is an area where we have gotten better.”
Junior Riley Jooss, sophomore Giulia Faulkner, Rapuano, sophomore Taya Laborde and sophomore Brooke Nebor are among North Haven’s key contributors.
“Last year we were 8-3, so 9-2 would be our best record ever,” said Phelan, whose squad finished second at the 2018 Class M meet. “We are really hoping to win the Class M title this year, we don’t talk about it yet, but the idea is there.”
NEW CANAAN STRONG IN DIVING
New Canaan has a formidable group of divers, led by Charlotte Frank. A junior, Frank is coming off a season in which she placed second on the 1-meter diving board at the CIAC Class L Championships (445.20) and sixth at the State Open (454).
In the Rams’ 114-72 loss to Greenwich this past Friday, Frank was the diving winner, totaling 281.70 points over six dives.
“The season is going pretty well, this was my personal-best (in six dives), I’ve been working on a lot of new dives that I haven’t done before,” Frank said, following New Canaan’s meet against Greenwich.
Frank has consistently drawn high scores with her inward double and backward one-and-one-half dives so far this season.
“I am trying to work on my inward double,” Frank said. “My inward double has been my best dive. So far, I’ve been solid all-around and consistent.”
Sophomore Olivia Quinn was third in the Rams’ recent meet against Greenwich, earning 235.58 points.
“We train every day and sometimes, twice a day with morning practice, so it helps,” Frank said of the diver’s practice regimine.
Gymnastics was one of the first sports Frank experienced success in. Her gymnastics skills quickly transferred to the diving board.
“I started diving about four years ago, I used to do gymnastics, so it was a good transition,” Frank said. “Competing in gymnastics before trying diving helped a lot, because I knew the movements of how to flip.
“My goals this year are to get the school-record, I think it’s 273 (six dives), and to get first at states, I got second last year.”
For the second time in as many weeks, Hall and Conard hosted an invitational meet, this time the October Invitational this past Friday at Cornerstone Aquatics Center.
The October Invitational included Hall, a Class LL squad, Conard, Wethersfield and South Windsor (Class L teams) and Class S team East Catholic.
Wethersfield’s 200-yard medley relay team of Julia Pitchell, Riley Wilhelm, Alanna DePinto an Olivia Thompson placed first in 1:55.51.
Jenna Swist of East Catholic was the 200-yard freestyle winner (2:02.72), while Hall’s Julia Suguro won the 200 individual medley (2:22.24). In the 50 freestyle, Tahlia Crowley touched the wall first in 25.39 seconds and Maggie Mantz of Hall won the 100 butterfly (1:00.83).
In a tight race, Sophia Lynch from Conard won the 100 yard freestyle with a time of 58.58 and Hannah Ganey of Hall placed second (59.03). Swist had a first-place finish in the 500 freestyle (5:28.10), followed by Hall’s Aislinn Mitchell (5:29.36).
The 200 freestyle relay race saw DePinto, Pitchell, Haley Krawczyk and Thompson place first in 1:44.61. Crowley (East Catholic) finished first in the 100 backstroke (1:00.71) and Katherine Wojnarowski from Hall was the fastest in the 100 breaststroke (1:14.36).
Wethersfield made it a clean sweep in the three relay events, ending the meet by winning the 400 freestyle relay race (DePinto, Pitchell, Abigail Keane, Olivia Thompson, 3:51.89).