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Senior co-captain Gabby Wira has been a leader both in and out of the pool for the Hand girls’ swimming and diving team. The Tigers are ready for another postseason filled with fantastic finishes this fall. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Erin Reilly is giving the Hand girls’ swimming and diving team a boost by showing versatility and excelling in multiple events. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Ava Dougherty is one of many swimmers who’s demonstrating the depth for the Tigers’ girls’ swimming and diving team this fall. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The Hand girls’ swimming and diving squad made a postseason splash last fall by posting a tandem of top-10 showings at the championship meets. With a team that features depth in every grade, the Tigers are looking to keep the current going as they continue heading upstream this year.
Last season, Head Coach Jen Lyman’s squad posted a dual-meet record of 8-3, before finishing in fourth place at the SCC Championship and seventh in the Class L State Championship. This year, Hand, which is now in Class M, has paced itself to a solid record of 5-2 through its first seven meets. Most recently, the Tigers defeated Sheehan on Oct. 9 and then took a loss against Cheshire on Oct. 12.
Coach Lyman said the Tigers are eager to have another strong postseason showing in 2018.
“We’re really excited about our approach to this season, especially after last year’s success,” said Lyman. “We are looking for a winning record in SCC Division I. We’d love to hit the top six at the SCC Championship, and we are looking to be a top contender in Class M and finish in the top four.”
Gabby Wira and Sam Tuveson are serving as the Tigers’ senior co-captains this fall. While each swimmer specializes in different events, Coach Lyman said their common thread is that both captains know how to encourage their teammates to put forth a great effort on a daily basis.
“Sam does a lot of our distance events, and she’s been a great vocal leader with enthusiasm and passion. She carries on our Hand traditions,” said Coach Lyman. “Gabby does the 200 individual medley and 100 breaststroke. Her competitive spirit while racing and leadership with motivating the team has been refreshing.”
Hand also features a trio of divers—Mary Huminski, Julia Bloomfield, and Schylar Saliba—in its senior class. Within the junior ranks, Kayla Mendonca, Erin Reilly, and Ruby Redlich have all been producing in the pool for the Tigers.
“Those senior divers have done a great job and have brought their love for diving and their competitive edge. It’s good to see them have the support of each other,” Coach Lyman said. “Kayla’s strength is in her power and her sportsmanship. She is committed to running every race to her fullest. Erin is versatile in all events, which gives us flexibility in our lineup. Ruby brings a lot with her personality and her focus on being the best she can be.”
Looking deeper into the underclass corps, Emma Ruffo, Ava Keane, and Ava Dougherty are showing spark as sophomores, while freshmen Abbi Chemacki, Catherine Arrandale, and Kacie Wines have stood out so far during their debut campaigns.
“Emma’s enthusiasm and work ethic have led to her successes. Ava Keane has gone a great job of filling the role left by [Class of 2018 graduate Allie Mascia]. Ava Dougherty has put in a lot of hard work in the offseason to contribute to the team and it has shown,” Coach Lyman said. “Abbi has a lot of versatility, and we’re looking forward to seeing her progress in the postseason. It’s been great to see Catherine’s confidence increase. It’s been fun to watch Kacie on the team. She plays lacrosse, and it’s been great to see her give the team perspective with her success there.”
In last week’s action, the Tigers started things off by earning an 89-70 victory versus Sheehan on Oct. 9. Three days later, Hand took a 94-84 loss versus Cheshire.
In the win against Sheehan, Hand’s 200 medley relay team of Mendonca, Wira, Reilly, and senior Maeve Merkle-Scotland took first place with a time of 2:05:78 to help the Tigers beat the Titans. Keane finished first (2:08:10) in the 200 freestyle and Tuveson came in third place (2:17:38). In the 200 individual medley, Ruffo placed as the runner-up (2:29:12) and Wira finished third (2:31:19) for Hand. Wines finished first (27:52) in the 50 freestyle and Arrandale took second place at 28:40.
For the 100 butterfly, Mendonca finished in first place (1:05:55) and Reilly was second (1:08:00) for the Tigers. In the 100 freestyle, Keane took first place (59:76) and Wines came in second place (1:01:53). Ruffo placed first in the 500 freestyle with a time of 5:41:55 and sophomore Alexa Betts took third (6:01:35). The Tigers’ 200 freestyle relay team of Redlich, Reilly, Arrandale, and Merkle-Scotland also posted a first-place finish by timing in at 1:54:84.
Other strong performances versus Sheehan came from Redlich (1:06:16) and sophomore Sophie Cadematori (1:11:54) in the 100 backstroke, Chemacki (1:16:33) and Wira (1:18:44) in the 100 breaststroke, and the 400 freestyle team of Betts, Cadematori, junior Grace Vest, and Mendonca (4:13:03).
Hand is now in the waning weeks of the regular season leading up to the championship meets. Coach Lyman said the Tigers are focusing on the mental and physical preparation that are required to thrive during the postseason.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time working on the right mindset during practices and meets. We also want to develop leadership and confidence, so when it comes time for the postseason, there will be no question as to if we belong and will represent Hand to the best of our ability,” said Lyman. “Our slogan is, ‘Together Everyone Achieves More,’ which spells out ‘T.E.A.M.’ It’s been great to watch them come together and stay united.”
From the Sidelines
This is Jen Lyman’s 11th season as the head coach of the Hand girls’ swimming and diving team.
Christina Forristall, who is also the head coach of the Hand boys’ swimming and diving team, is the assistant coach for the girls’ squad.
The SCC Championship will take place Southern Connecticut State University at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1.
The diving portion of the Class M State Championship will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Bulkeley High School. The swimming trials are on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 5:55 p.m. at East Hartford High School. The swimming section of the Class M State Championship will take place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at Wesleyan University.
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