Graciela Breece-Rodriguez and the Lady Vols have high expectations for this season.
Sept. 26, 2003
University of Tennessee Women's Head Swimming Coach Dan Colella, Head Diving Coach Dave Parrington and Assistant Coach Jamie Bloom hope to ride the "Ripple Effect" of momentum generated by a solid 2002-03 campaign. A strong returning core of talent, mixed with a second-straight potent class of newcomers with unlimited potential has constructed a rock-solid foundation that will buttress the squad's opportunities for success in the 2003-04 season.
"The program is on a course to being, once again, one of the finest programs in the country." Colella said. "Between the returning class and the addition of nine talented freshmen, we expect to continue climbing up the ladder both at the conference and NCAA level. This group is exactly what we wanted as we get ready to make our transition into the new facility in two years. They are creating an incredible base, which we expect to continue to build on as we go into the future."
With the combination of outstanding new and returning performers on the squad this season, excitement permeates the coaching staff at Rocky Top. Colella and Parrington are both long-time fixtures at UT, as Colella enters his 11th season as head coach and 14th overall at Tennessee. Parrington, meanwhile, begins his 14th year in charge of the divers. Both have a long history of producing successful student-athletes, as Lady Vols have earned 130 All-America certificates under Colella's mentoring and divers have become All-Americans 34 times under Parrington's tutelage.
"We are coming off a successful season in which we saw a lot of great swimming last year." Colella said. "Our returning group will restore 'Tennessee Swimming & Diving' to the lips of many prospective athletes, their families, and their coaches. As good as they were last year, I know that we are going to see even more out of them this season. Already early in the year, I see a new level of commitment and drive from this group. When they combine that hard work with their talent, it should make for some really exciting swimming this season."
Leading the charge for the Big Orange this season is a trio of All-Americans. Senior Kylee Wells (Russiaville, Ind.) will help fill the leadership void left by former Lady Vol All-American Jaime Sanger (Plymouth, Minn.). Wells returned to form during her junior season by capturing her initial platform title at the league meet. She also claimed an All-America certificate by placing 11th on the platform at the NCAA Championships.
Junior Lauryn McCalley sustained an incredible rookie season performance by earning her third All-America accolade as a sophomore, placing fifth on the one-meter at the 2003 NCAA Championships. McCalley, a native of Moultrie, Ga., also garnered Academic All-America honors for her work in the classroom.
Rounding out the crop of orange-clad All-America performers, sophomore Jacque Fessel (Cincinnati, Ohio) had an outstanding maiden season as she placed seventh in the 100y backstroke at the NCAA Championships to earn All-America status. She also broke four-time All-American Pam Hanson's school record in the 100y backstroke with a 54.73 in the SEC prelims and later lowered her mark to a 54.19 in the NCAA prelims in that event.
A number of Lady Vol swimmers were able to make great strides over the summer, laying the groundwork for another strong campaign this year.
One such student-athlete is senior Taryn Ternent (Edenvale, South Africa). Ternent proved to be a valuable relay member as she swam the third leg of the eighth-fastest 200y freestyle team in UT history at SECs with a sixth-place 1:33.13 at the meet. She also helped Tennessee secure two relay event titles throughout the season with wins coming at the LSU dual meet and the Georgia Bulldog Invitational.
Also providing valuable leadership to the team this year are juniors Jessica Blevins and Elizabeth Wueste. Blevins, who hails from Bluefield, W.Va., remained an integral part of UT's freestyle relay effort as she helped the 200y squad win the event at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational. Wueste (Norcross, Ga.) will look to contribute to the distance events this year after missing most of the 2002-03 campaign.
Last season's harvest of new talent will be that much more dangerous after a year of training and competition. A cadre of nine sophomores will be a key to Tennessee's ultimate success. Tatiana Athayde (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) was a mid-season addition who made an immediate impact, as the freshman was a member of the 200y medley relay squad that broke the school record in that event. Kara Boland (Lafayette Hill, Pa.) will be taking a medical redshirt to recover from surgery but should be available to the team in a leadership capacity.
Fellow sophomores Graciela Breece-Rodriguez (Boulder, Colo.) and Betsy Brockman (Batavia, Ohio) look to build upon outstanding rookie seasons. Breece-Rodriguez became the sixth-fastest Lady Vol in both the 100y and 200y butterfly at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational and the SEC meet, respectively. She also claimed her first event title with a 2:05.91 effort in the 200y individual medley against Georgia. Brockman also made waves in her initial season at Rocky Top by finishing in the top five 13 times as well as claiming four event titles during her freshman year.
Rounding out the stalwart sophomore class in Volunteer Country is the trio of Danielle Lundy (Austell, Ga.), Abbi Terveer (Lima, Ohio) and Randi Vogel (Maineville, Ohio). Lundy made a smooth transition into collegiate swimming by notching a number of personal bests. Overall, Lundy made a name for herself as a member of nine top-five efforts for both the 200y and 400y medley relay teams put forth by the orange-clads. Terveer was also a stable member of the Big Orange relay squads as she helped UT to four relay event titles as well as capped a productive rookie season with her initial event victory in the 50y freestyle at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational. Vogel proved to be a utility swimmer for Tennessee, as the rookie competed in nine individual events and five relays throughout the year.
Adding to the excitement for the Orange and White this season is a large recruiting haul of 10 newcomers, including an expected mid-season addition from the soccer squad.
"As I have already boasted about last year's group, let me say that when you combine them with this talented freshmen class we are quite a force." Colella said. "The newcomers have impressed me right out of the gate. Though we are only a month into the year, I sense a real maturity in this group, which will only add fuel to our team's fire. As I have already mentioned, we are coming back and coming back BIG TIME!"
Perhaps the newcomer who has had the most decorated career to this point is freshman Megan Tomes. This past year, Tomes finished the year with the No. 1 national ranking in the 200y individual medley. The Cincinnati, Ohio, native is an eight-time prep All-American who garnered certificates in every high school event in 2003.
Closing out Coach Parrington's diving contingent is Brittany Fulmer (Maryville, Tenn.). Fulmer was an honorable mention All-American her entire prep career at Maryville High. She also became a two-time state champion as a senior and led MHS to a state championship as a sophomore and two runner-up finishes as a freshman and a junior.
Other newcomers looked upon to make an impact include Misty Cain, Elizabeth Christy and Tiffany Clay, who have each already achieved national success in the swimming scene. Cain hails from Kennesaw, Ga., and grabbed All-America accolades her last two seasons. She was a second-team all-state selection as both a sophomore and junior and was tabbed to the third team following her senior campaign. Christy, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., was named the National Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association Swimmer of the Year in 2002. She was also an All-American champion in the 200y freestyle relay in the same year. Clay, who joins the Lady Vols from Mason, Ohio, finished her high school career with four All-America citations, three of which were first-team entries. She also led her club team to the National Swim Club Championship.
Tennessee also boasts several other new student-athletes that come to Rocky Top with impressive credentials. Megan Keefer (Fort Wayne, Ind.) earned runner-up status in the 1,650y freestyle at the state championships as well as competed at the 2003 U.S. Senior Nationals in Indianapolis, Ind. Julia Lutz was named all-county and all-state her final three seasons and set a school record in the 100y butterfly in 2002 while at Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga. Sarah Ridgway, a native of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, was a member of the U.S.V.I. National Team. She also was a two-time New England gold medallist in the 200y freestyle while attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Perhaps the most energetic swimmer on the squad, Ashley Yeager (Mechanicsburg, Pa.), was a four-time All-American in the 100y butterfly, 200y individual medley and 500y freestyle as well as a state champion in the 100m backstroke. She also claimed the 100m butterfly district title two consecutive years.
Closing out the list of newcomers to the swimming and diving squad is junior Kristin McGrath (Durango, Colo.), who will make a bid to become the first two-sport athlete in the department since 1999-2000, when Mandy Bergey competed for the volleyball team in the Fall of 1999 and finished out the competitive season as a pole vaulter on the track & field team in the spring of 2000. During her time at Durango High, McGrath earned 2000-01 Southwest Region Swimmer of the Year honors, established a school record in the 100y breaststroke and was a member of school-record relay performances in the 200 medley and the 200 freestyle. She was also a two-time qualifier for the state championships meet in the 200 individual medley. Additionally, McGrath helped the Lady Vol soccer squad to the SEC Tournament title, Eastern Division crown and a berth in the Women's College Cup Sweet 16 in 2002.
A number of dual meets and invitationals throughout the season will provide a sufficient challenge for the Lady Vols as they prepare for the competitions that are always their ultimate focus, the SEC and NCAA Championships.
"As usual, we have set up a challenging schedule that has some traditional rivalries." Colella said. "We will also be participating in a couple of new competitions that should allow us the opportunity to swim some schools from outside our conference. The main objective, as always, is to present our athletes with a schedule which will best prepare them for the championship season, and I believe we have accomplished that goal."
The season kicks off with the bi-annual Orange and White Alumnae meet on Oct. 18 at the Student Aquatic Center, where the current Lady Vols will test their skills against former orange-clad athletes. The regular season begins for UT on Oct. 24 when the squad heads to Lexington, Ky., to battle Kentucky. After a three-week break, the Big Orange heads back on the road for a Nov. 15 tilt against defending NCAA and SEC Champion Auburn in Auburn, Ala. Five days later, the Lady Vols head to Houston, Texas, for the University of Houston Invitational, held over Nov. 20-22. While the divers will begin their winter recess early, the swimmers will head to the U.S. Open in Federal Way, Wash., over Dec. 4-6, before moving on to the Key West Relay Extravaganza in Key West, Fla., on Dec. 17.
The divers kick off the spring season for Tennessee as it visits Athens, Ga., for the Georgia Diving Invitational over Jan. 3-5. Soon after, the divers rejoin the swimmers in Knoxville for a split-session home dual against Northwestern on Jan. 10. The two squads will open competition with the first session at 10 a.m. before concluding the day with a nightcap scheduled for 6 p.m.
Once again, Parrington's contingent will split off for the USA World Cup Diving Trials, over Jan. 15-18, in Auburn, Ala., before returning to the fold for an SEC confrontation on Jan. 17 with league foe Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark. The reunited squad then completes its home schedule with another league clash against the Florida Gators on Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. The regular season is capped off with a dual meet at Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 8.
The postseason begins with the USA Spring National Championships, over Feb. 10-14 in Orlando, Fla. The combined squad will then strive for conference supremacy at the SEC Championships in Athens, Ga., over Feb. 25-28. The divers then move on to the NCAA Zone B Diving Championships, over March 12-14, where they will vie for an opportunity to join their teammates who qualify for the 2004 NCAA Championships in College Station, Texas, from March 18-20. The diving slate then concludes with the America's Cup over April 8-11.
Colella and Parrington hope that combining a strong nucleus of returning talent, an impressive haul of promising newcomers and a schedule conducive to outstanding performances will lead to the Lady Vols converting the "Ripple Effect" into remarkable outings at the SEC and NCAA Championships.