Oct. 11, 2006
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern enters the 2006-07 season with a very big sense of new things on the horizon. Two-thirds of the coaching staff is new, a large group of talented newcomers have joined the squad and head coach Jimmy Tierney is excited about the energy and spirit of his Wildcats.
That spirit will be unleashed at 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, at the Norris Aquatics Center in a dual meet against California, a squad which finished fourth at last year's NCAA Championships.
With a roster of just 14 student-athletes last year, Northwestern had its share of talent but lacked the depth to support it. This year, the Wildcats feature much more of a complete package.
"The interesting thing this year is our total numbers are not that much different from last year, but we have more people who are going to be able to contribute in all of our events," Tierney says. "The number of people who can have an impact at the Big Ten level or higher is greater than before. Last year we had some natural holes in certain events because we did not have enough people to specialize and then some injuries exasperated that. We feel right now like we do not have big weaknesses anymore."
The Wildcats return two-time All-America freestyler Andrea Hupman and sophomore Hayley Fry, who earned an All-Big Ten honors in the 100 breast. There is just one senior on the roster, diver Leanne Dumais, but strong leadership from the junior class gives this year's team a very veteran feel.
"We have three captains (Jessie Bailis, Carrera Harris and Beth Campbell) who are very special people who have given and want to keep giving to this program," Tierney says. "It also is exciting because we have the whole junior class back, and they are going to be asked to give in a lot of different ways and they already are doing that now."
With their smaller numbers in 2005-06, the Wildcats did not duplicate their tremendous 8-4 dual meet record of two years ago. Tierney expects that to change this season.
"We will be very competitive against almost any team we go up against this year," Tierney says. "I think if we do fall short, it will not be for lack of talent. We will be able to battle a lot of these teams, even with Cal coming in as one of the most talented teams in the country."
Contributing to the confidence of the 'Cats is a stellar group of newcomers, which Tierney has described as "one of the deepest and most talented classes we have had in my time here."
Comprised of eight student-athletes from literally every corner of the United States and Canada (California, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, North Carolina, Alaska and Ontario, Canada are represented), this freshman class will contribute immediately.
"We were thrilled last year because we felt like we got a very special group of people," Tierney says. "The highest priority was getting great people who were going to contribute to this program in a lot of different ways, and they we looked at who they are and how fast they are in the water and it was like we got the best of both worlds. They will add a lot, not just in the pool, but outside of it and to the University as a whole."
With the combination of a strong and dedicated core of upperclassmen and an immensely talented and spirited group of newcomers, Tierney is very optimistic for his squad's prospects at the Big Ten and NCAA level.
"We are excited to get after it and see where we are and determine what we have to work on to become a great championship team, "Tierney says. "The prospects are good, both from a Big Ten and NCAA level and the spirit is great, too. We have a great bunch of young women to work with and they want to do something special, so it is a good feeling to have right now."