The Toll Gate girls’ swimming team is in the same position this year that it’s been in for several seasons in a row. The Titans have decent numbers, some standouts who will compete at the state level and plenty of inexperienced swimmers. As always, that will create some challenges, but also some opportunities for success.
The Titans will try to seize them.
“Our general expectation is to stay competitive in our division,” said Toll Gate head coach Mike Seidenberg. “Obviously, there are going to be teams that are bigger and in terms of technical stuff, maybe they’ve been swimming since September. But I’d like to stay in the middle of the pack and win a few meets. Then we’ll see if we can focus on doing well at our division meet and getting the girls who are going to make states ready for that competition.”
That formula is nothing new. After going 12-2 in the 2007-08 season, the Titans haven’t been as successful since, but they’ve remained competitive both within the Division II ranks and in postseason meets. Last year, they went 2-5 in the regular season, but finished fourth at the Division II meet and had several strong swims at states.
They’ll likely follow a similar path this year.
“We just have to keep physically working – getting everyone where they need to be so they can be swimming faster and more competitive,” Seidenberg said.
The Titans will be led by junior Mikayla Rogers, a year-round swimmer who was the team’s top performer a season ago. At the state meet, she finished fifth in the 100 butterfly and seventh in the 500 freestyle.
“Mikayla is working hard,” Seidenberg said. “She’s in the middle of her season right now so she’s feeling some aches and pains. I think she’ll be tired throughout the season, but as she gets some rest toward the end of the season, I think we’ll see her times drop. Technically, she looks very good in the butterfly, and I think she’s getting physically stronger.”
Senior Nina Yu is back after qualifying for a state event last year, and the Titans will benefit from the return of junior Stephanie Hager, who was injured last season.
“She’s back after an injury kept her out of the whole season last year,” Seidenberg said. “She’s feeling it a little bit too but as she gets more confident and gets more swims, I think she’ll be fine.”
In the season-opening meet last Thursday against Westerly, the Titans also got contributions from seniors Molly Turner, Courtney Caesar and Shannon Garvey, juniors Yamile Garcia and Amanda Wilks, sophomores Breana Coleman, Abigail Lewis and Karly Mallette and freshmen Rachel Evell and Madeline Hayes.
For many of the swimmers, it’s a learning process. In a 12-week season, it’s no easy task.
“It’s just a question of teaching them quick enough and getting them physically where they need to be,” Seidenberg said. “That’s the balance with only a 12-week season. It’s tough. We practice two weeks and I have to teach four strokes, all the turns, starts and what you can get disqualified on. A lot of the kids don’t come in knowing that stuff if they don’t swim, so it has to be taught.”
The Titans lost to Westerly 55-36. Rogers won the 100 fly and Hager took first in the 100 breaststroke to lead the way.
It was a good starting point for the Titans, and it’ll provide a baseline for the rest of the schedule. The team was scheduled to swim again on Monday against Narragansett. After that, the Titans won’t be back in action until Jan. 3.
“We’re very much green and learning,” Seidenberg said. “We have a lot of new kids on the team so we have something to work on, most definitely.”