January 9, 1998
1998 Women's Swimming Season Outlook
EVANSTON, Ill. -- With a veteran squad that boasts seven returning All-Americans, the Northwestern women's swimming and diving team is ready to plunge into the 1997-98 season. A campaign that fourth-year head coach Jimmy Tierney hopes will vault his team to the top of the national standings.
With virtually every member back from a team that placed 12th last year at the NCAA championships, including seven all-americans, Tierney sees no reason why his squad can't improve.
"In general, our goals are to get more people to the NCAA level and to have them move up individually and team-wise," said Tierney. "The seven who went to the NCAA's are back and feeling good about their performance, but we hope to add more to that."
Leading the All-American pack is senior freestyler Joy Stover. Last year Stover set a number of the 'Cats top times in the 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle. Both the 500 freestyle and the 1650 freestyle earned her All-American honors. But Stover's 1,650 freestyle not only placed sixth at the NCAA championships but also put her in the NU history book as well. With a time of 16:22.38, Stover eclipsed the Wildcat record set by former Wildcat Marilyn Peck, who had a time of 16:24.15 in 1990.
"She made the finals at the NCAAs for the first time, and she's setting her goals even higher this year," Tierney noted. "We have a great distance free-styler in her."
Another record-breaker is sophomore Dominique Diezi. Diezi, one of the standouts in last year's talent-laden freshman class, broke two Wildcat records in the 100 backstroke (55.24) and 50 freestyle (22.96) at the NCAA championships. But Coach Tierney believes the former Olympic competitor and five-time All-American honoree will push for an even stronger showing this year.
"Last year when she broke those records, she didn't score individually," Tierney explained. "She wants to score. She did a great job on the relays but this year she also wants to score in individuals, too."
Others looking to surpass the accomplishments of last season are Amy Balcerzak and Cathy Lundin. Balcerzak, also a leading freshman last year, set a number of school records including the 100 (1:01.66) and 200 (2:14.04) breaststroke. The All-American honoree also set new school records in the 200 (1:41.73) and 400 (3:41.32) medley relays with Lundin, Diezi and Igoe.
Cathy Lundin, who earned All-America honors in four events last season, returns with a slate of honors such as Big Ten Champion in the 200 butterfly. The junior posted a new school record in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:01.92.
Tierney says that increased strenght and speed will be the main thing to expect from both swimmers.
"They're not necessarily satisfied with repeating last year's results," Tierney said. "They're determined to go faster and move up nationally. That's the name of the game. They're two of the best racers I've ever coached."
Other key returnees include Ashley Mosher, Kelly Igoe and Lisa Bushell, all of whom garnered All-American honors and placed in the NCAA championships. Allyson Bowman, a sophomore freestyle and butterfly specialist, will be another swimmer to watch.
In addition, Tierney says senior Valery Calkins and sophomore Alexis Keto as valuable assets to the freestyle unit.
"The freestyle is our strongest group," Tierney said. "If we swim to our potential we'll score a lot of points. Diezi, Balcerzak, Lundin and Igoe made a huge difference for us in the medley relays."
Jill Siefers will have the potential to further strengthen the 'Cats freestyle. Tierney expects her to contribute significantly to the 50, 100 free and relay events.
The backstroke will feature Tashy Bohm, a highly regarded freshman.
"Tashy has shown us some really impressive swim times," Tierney said. "I feel she'll definitely be in the NCAA's and she'll be able to battle in the Big Ten, too, especially in the 200 back.
"Both (Bohm and Siefers) are extremely talented and they will definitely play a big role for us," Tierney said.
The Wildcats' top diver, Julia MacDonald, a sophomore, posted top scores for both the 1-meter and 3-meter dives. She also carded three of the top five scores in the 1-meter event.
"We're very excited about the future of our diving program," Tierney said. "We will definitely be in better shape diving-wise than ever before. I'm not promising huge strides within the next year but with many of the divers being young and new head diving coach Donnie Torres instilling confidence in them, we're confident we'll take off."
Now that the Wildcats are ready to jump into the season, they must take on the toughest meet schedule that they've had in years. But the 'Cats argue that this is a sure-fire way to step up their level of competitiveness. Northwestern will compete against top-ranked teams like Stanford, Auburn and Tennessee.
"More than hard work, they need to gain strength, quickness, agility, explosiveness and the right mentality," Tierney said. "We need them to have confidence and belief in the program. Having the athletes know this, we can guide them to their ultimate goals one step at a time."