Feb. 13, 2012
The Women's Swimming and Diving team did not know what to expect coming into the 2011-2012 season. The Saints had to create an entirely new team after losing seven talented seniors to graduation and adding nine incoming freshmen. This new dynamic presented many obstacles, but the Saints used a total team effort to post their fifth straight winning season, and enter the MAAC Championship Meet with overwhelming optimism.
The incoming freshmen had to adjust athletically, academically and socially, and there were some bumps along the road. Not only were there nine new members of the team, but they were coming from all over the country.
"Initially, I always think you worry a little bit about (how the students will adapt) as a coach, but I wasn't terribly worried," head coach Paul Kueterman said. "A lot of (the freshmen) are independent and they wanted to get away from home. I also enjoy having people from further away because it helps out with recruiting."
For some, the transition was difficult. "Adjusting to (college) life was pretty difficult at first because I was so far from home," Amanda Podzerwinski said. "Adjusting to not being with my family and friends was tough, I did not know what to expect."
Stephanie Bundas found the adjustment difficult at times too. In addition to the challenges her teammates faced, Bundas had the added pressure of competing for a second Division I sport at Siena, as a member of the water polo team.
Some of the other freshman has a smoother transition.
"It was much easier than I thought" Amanda York said. "Academically it was a big change because I had to work a lot harder than I was used to. Athletically I was used to intense workouts, and socially I didn't mind because it was nice having the team with me."
"Being on a team definitely helped with the transition to Siena because I automatically had a group of friends that related to me," Kelsey Helin
Having eight other freshmen by their sides made the change less rugged for many of the other rookies as well.
"Having nine freshman immediately made it easier," Erika Seagren said. "There are eight other girls right there with you going through the same thing you are. No matter what you had a hard time adjusting to, there was always at least one other person who could relate and help you get through it."
"We are all going through it at once so it definitely brings us together," Kat Canavan said. "We have dinner together every night too, which is really nice. I have not faced many issues with any of the girls. Everyone has their moments of course, but we all love each other."
This transition was not only a work in progress for the newest members of the team, but for the upperclassmen and coaching staff as well.
"It's definitely different this season without the class of 2011," senior captain Katie Carew said. "There were so many (seniors last year), so when they were here it never felt like I was an upperclassman. When they left it was different being the one who everyone looked up to. For three years, whether it was at a meet or a practice, I followed their lead. I was nervous having so many new teammates, because this time I was going to be one of the people leading them."
Carew anticipated the drastic change in the team dynamic, but she still could not pinpoint just what to expect and make of it all.
The team has now been together for almost six months, and the positives of this new team outweigh the negatives. The Saints finished their regular season with a 9-7 record, and displayed a strong sense of team chemistry both in and out of the water.
"I think this drastic change gave us an opportunity to become even closer, and we did," Carew said. "The team dynamic is the best in all of my years at Siena. The four upperclassmen are outnumbered by our nine freshman and three sophomores, but I think this forced us to spend time with our teammates outside of our own class."
Carew originally thought it would be the upperclassmen helping the freshmen out with adjustments. She did not realize the freshmen would have something to offer as well.
"They taught me what it meant to be a leader," Carew said. "It was very challenging at times, but every day these girls surprise me."
Kueterman found this year to be positive for the future as well. "The foundation is set for many years," Kueterman said. "I feel it really helps in recruiting the next class when you have potential student athletes see that we are up and coming, and that these people are going to be around for a fair amount of years. I think it helps push the upperclassmen too."
With only the MAAC Championship Meet left, the team looks to add to their accomplishments thus far. After a fourth place finish last year, the Saints hope to improve their position this year.
"I don't know what to expect, but I think having experienced taper and big meets before in club swimming has helped prepare me for MAACS," Kelly Levine said.
Shannon Love and Jacque Medina shared Levine's experience. All three have attended fast meets in high school that helped them anticipate what to expect this weekend.
"I'm definitely nervous," Medina said. "I really want to place well, but all I can do is try to stay positive and focused. The training is already there, so if I can do those two things, I think I'll be alright."
Love admitted the nerves are beginning to set in. "I've been to a big meet before, but not with any of these swimmers," Love said. "I just have to think to myself that I can beat these girls."
Kueterman has been working diligently to keep the team focused, and help guide them through these last days of their lengthy season.
"It's about creating an atmosphere of excitement, staying positive," Kueterman said. "Everyone has put in the hard work, now it's just about trying to work on the details. I'm trying to explain every day to just enjoy the journey and keep the focus going. It is important to let the team know that we need to be collectively confident in one another."
The Saints journey closes in Buffalo with the three-day MAAC Championship Meet February 15.