Aug. 24, 2001
In order to be successful during the 2001-2002 season, the Clemson women’s swimming and diving team will depend on their depth and experience to make a mark in ACC and NCAA competition. The Tigers will benefit from the return of 26 letterwinners from last year’s squad. Among the veteran returnees will be senior Patty Hider, juniors Mandy Commons and Elise Thieler, and sophomore Lindsey Kroeger, all of whom earned honorable mention All-America honors last year. When this experienced group, that finished third in the ACC and 21st in the final CSCAA poll, is bolstered by the addition of four freshmen and one transfer, they will be poised to challenge for top ACC honors.
Coach Bruce Marchionda, with the help of assistants Kathleen Milloy, Jim McGinnis, and diving coach Leslie Hasselbach, will be stressing the team concept this season. “In order to be successful, both the men and women will have to rely on depth, not necessarily a group of stars,” said Marchionda. “There are some teams that have two or three athletes that carry the group. If we are going to be successful this year, we are going to have to gel as a team. If we do work together and become a true team, we are going to experience a lot of success this year.”
The 50 and 100 free will be the strongest freestyle events for the Tigers this year. There are four student-athletes returning who are ranked in the all-time top 10 in Clemson history in the 50 free. The group is led by junior Elise Thieler, who is ranked second all-time (23.17). Thieler is joined by fellow junior Jenna Burtch, who is ranked third all-time (23.20). Rounding out the group are seniors Patty Hider, ranked fourth (23.21), and Caroline Peterson, ranked eighth (23.59).
Coach Marchionda expects some great results from the sprinters. “When we add freshman Jennifer Hippert (Savannah, GA), we will have a very good sprint group that will not only take care of the 50 and 100 free, but move into the relay events including the 200 free relay, the 400 free relay, and the medley relays to give us the strength we need for the conference championships.”
The Tigers will return strong swimmers in the middle distance freestyle events as well. Marchionda looks to third year swimmer Jenna Burtch to lead the way. “Jenna really developed last year in the 200 free and will probably be our best 200 freestyler this year. She could potentially compete at the NCAA’s for a national championship.” Marchionda also notes that juniors Catherine Blaney and Liz Dwors should contribute to the team effort in the middle distance events.
The women will also return three distance swimmers that are ranked in the all-time top 10 in Clemson history in the 1650 freestyle. Sophomores Kim Cober, ranked seventh (16:52.02), and Alison Gjervold, ranked eighth (16:52.87), top the list of impressive returnees. Junior Liz Dwors, ranked ninth (16:55.42), is coming off shoulder surgery last year and the Tigers are expecting her to return in top form. The team will also look for Catherine Blaney to move up from the middle distance events and for senior Emily Husted, who specializes in the butterfly, to pitch in as well.
The Tigers return three swimmers who scored in both the 100 and 200 back at the conference championships. As a junior, Nina Douglas placed 17th in the 100 back (57.80) and 14th in the 200 back (2:05.34). In her first year, Katie Walker produced a ninth-place finish in the 100 back (57.38) and recorded a fifth-place finish in the 200 back (2:03.08). Fellow rookie Lindsay Kroeger placed fifth in the 100 back (56.71) and ninth in the 200 back (2:03.70).
During her junior campaign, Ginny Kirouac also scored for the Tigers in the 200 back at the ACC meet with an eighth-place finish (2:04.08). Coach Marchionda will expect a lot from his backstroke group this year. Freshman Jennifer Hippert will strengthen an already solid team in the 100 back and Marchionda is looking for junior Mary Brewer to continue her improvement and challenge for a spot in the backstroke events.
The Tiger coaching staff will be pushing the women’s butterfly group to rise to the occasion this season. “Butterfly will probably be our most challenging stroke this year. We have some excellent swimmers in those events, but we do not have a tremendous amount of depth. It seems that all our butterflyers specialize in either the 100 fly or the 200 fly,” said Marchionda.
Leading the 100 fly will be All-American Elise Thieler who was an ACC champion in the event last year. Thieler, in her third year from New Jersey, holds the school record in the 100 fly (54.73). Joining her will be senior Caroline Peterson, who will transfer from the sprint freestyle events to add valuable depth. Marchionda expects senior Emily Husted, and juniors Mary Brewer and Meghann Clifford to compete in the 200 fly. Add sophomore Meghan Murphy and Coach Marchionda expects great competition in this group.
“They will really challenge one another during work outs, and hopefully develop into a strong scoring event for us at the conference championships.” Margaux Price, a sophomore transfer from Duquesne University, will help in the butterfly as well as the sprint freestyle events.
The Tigers will return a core of four excellent athletes in the breaststroke events. Courtney Ellis, a junior from Seattle, WA, broke the school record and holds the fastest time in Clemson history in the 200 breaststroke (2:17.36). Junior All-American Mandy Commons, who holds the Clemson record in the 100 breaststroke (1:01.86), will also range up for the 200 breaststroke. Sophomores Katie Brown and Caitlin Bissell developed well last year. Brown was a finalist in both breaststroke events at the conference
championships, and Marchionda considers Bissell to be one of the most improved swimmers from last year’s squad. He will be looking for them to round out the breaststroke group and provide valuable scoring throughout the year.
All-American Ginny Kirouac, a senior from Norcross, GA, holds the second fastest time in Clemson history in the 400 IM (4:16.03). Junior Courtney Ellis, who is ranked seventh in Clemson’s all-time top 10 for the 200 IM (2:04.63) and holds the fourth spot in the 400 IM (4:20.49), will join Kirouac to provide a potent combination. Marchionda also thinks that junior Mandy Commons has the ability to step out of the breaststroke events and help the team in the 200 IM. Sophomore Alison Gjervold, who is ranked 10th all-time in Clemson history in the 400 IM (4:24.34), will team with fellow sophomores Katie Walker and Katie Brown to provide the depth that this year’s team will focus on.
Coach Marchionda’s Tigers will depend on the strength and scoring potential of the relay teams this year. “The relays are probably our strongest suit. Last year we challenged for the conference championship in both the 200 and 400 medley relays, placing second to UNC. We’d like to challenge again, and perhaps become ACC champions. The relay spots are wide open.” The Tigers have a strong group of sprint freestyle swimmers who will challenge for spots in the 200 and 400 free relays. With the development of third year swimmer Jenna Burtch as a leader in the 800 free relay, and fellow juniors Catherine Blaney and Liz Dwors, Marchionda predicts great things in that event.
The Tigers will have to rebound from the loss of Betsy Potter, who had a great four years at Clemson. Potter led last year’s team in both the one and three-meter events with team-best scores of 259.8 and 385.10 respectively. She also represented the Tigers at the NCAA Zone -B diving competition in Athens, GA. “We are really looking for Betsy’s shoes to be filled by freshman Shastin Leathers (Boca Raton, FL),” said Marchionda. Joining Leathers will be junior Amy Tolley, sophomore Bethany Bruzzi, and freshman Jennifer Bires. Once leadership is established among the divers, they are certain to succeed under the guidance of diving coach Leslie Hasselbach.
This year, the Tigers will face six teams that ended the 2000-2001 season ranked in the CSCAA top 25. The first test for the Tigers against top-ranked competition will be a tri-meet against last year’s 13th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers and the 25th-ranked Rice Owls on October 27, at McHugh Natatorium.
Clemson welcomes ACC rival Florida State on November 3, and the Tigers will play host to seventh-ranked Florida on November 9, in the final home meet of the fall.
The Tigers will travel to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks on November 16. Fall competition will conclude for Clemson at the Georgia Invitational November 30- December 2, where they will face 2000-2001 National Champion Georgia, and a strong University of Minnesota team.
On January 5, the Tigers will face Rutgers and Miami in Coral Gables, FL. Clemson will remain on the road as the team attempts to knock off 11th-ranked UNC in Chapel Hill on January 12. The Tigers will make their first-ever trip to Atlanta to battle Georgia Tech on January 19. Clemson concludes the dual meet season against NC State in Raleigh on February 2.
The 2001-2002 ACC Championships will be held at the University of Maryland from February 21-23. Tiger divers will compete in the NCAA Zone Qualifying Championships on March 8 and9 at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. Clemson will complete the season at the NCAA Championships in Austin, TX, from March 21-23.
The Tigers have one of the country’s most difficult schedules and the team is looking forward to a challenging and successful year.
April 18, 2019