Oct. 22, 2012
FORT WORTH - The TCU women's swimming and diving squads take to the pool Friday and Saturday at the Rice Invitational. GoFrogs.com sat down with head coach Richard Sybesma and diving coach Wayne Chester to discuss the 2012-13 season.
"I think we can compete in several events for championships, particularly in the individual events," Sybesma stated. "I think we have an opportunity to be in the top-three in all relays and as a team. It is going to be an interesting battle in the top-three and our plan is to be in there. We are pretty good in every event in depth and in quality. We need to search out those NCAA qualifying times, but we have very good kids in every event."
The TCU freestyle group is a case of the veterans and the rookies when going across the distance scale. The Horned Frogs have a strong, veteran group leading the way in the sprint freestyle events. An owner of eight school records, senior Sabine Rasch had another huge season in 2011-12. Rasch qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 50 and 100 free and then went on to be a finalist in the sprint free events at the German Olympic Trials over the summer.
"The most important things she brings to our team is her competitiveness and tenacity in the water," Sybesma said. "We use her in so many ways, but she is our top point scorer."
The depth in sprint free events continue with seniors Parris Schoppa and Katie Scarsella. Both joined Rasch on the school record 200 and 400 free relay teams. Scarsella was also part of the school record 800 free relay team and Schoppa is second in school history in the 100 free.
"We really have three very strong legs on our free relays," Sybesma noted. "We don't know who our fourth will be, but we have some really good swimmers who can step up."
The longer races are dominated by freshmen. The lineup for the 200 free and 500 free consisted of all freshmen. Sara Brzozowski won both events. Mikayla Winkler and Carley Stevens were right behind her in both events.
"The distance events were one of our weaker spots last year," Sybesma stated. "We really recruited hard there. Sara is a talent there and Mikayla and Carley will be up there with her. All have been training very well and will be the foundation of our distance program. We should be pretty stout in those events."
Rasch is the school record holder in the 100 fly, but the Horned Frogs should have the depth to rely on other competitors. The butterfly events will feature many new faces to TCU with Clemson transfer Ali Polhill and freshmen Aly Davis and Maggie Burkhardt considered to be the top talents. Senior Madi Rupp will also be a factor.
In the 200 fly, Ali Bleasdell is TCU's top returning competitor.
"We have a wealth of talent in the fly," Sybesma said.
The Horned Frogs return an array of talented backstroke swimmers. Sophomores Ashley Alspaugh, Lizzy Oster and Victoria Thicke-Rattray are the top forces for TCU. Alspaugh is the school record holder in the 100 back and as leadoff for the 200 medley relay record. Oster led off the school record team in the 400 medley relay and Thicke-Rattray is the school record holder in the 200 back.
Newcomer Aly Davis has been a strong performer in training so far and will be a factor in the shorter distances.
"We are better than we have been," Sybesma commented. "We have four really strong 100 and 200 backstroke swimmers. I think the 200 back could be our best event. We hope Alspaugh and Davis will continue to battle for relay positions. Those two have been right up there in training and Davis has been swimming in the 26s in the 50 back. There have been times we were lucky to have someone in the 27s. we are excited about that."
If there is an area where the Big 12 is noted for its strength, it is the breaststroke events. The Horned Frogs feel they will be ready for the challenge. TCU is strong at the top with junior Gabi Korac breaking the school record in the 100 and 200 breast and qualifying for the Croatian Olympic Trials. Fellow junior Michelle Fleming has experienced success in the past in the events and sophomore Van-Anh Hoang had a solid debut season.
"We need standout performances from all three so we can perform well in the Big 12," Sybesma said.
Because TCU is deep in most events, they usually do not require too many swimmers to cross over into other individual events. That hides the strength TCU has in the individual medley events. Thicke-Rattray broke the school record in the 200 IM and Bleasdell's best time was only a second behind. In the 400 IM, Thicke-Rattray and Emily Rose Creighton are both strong competitors.
Senior Katie Lybbert is the top returning diver for the Horned Frogs. The Argyle, Texas native was TCU's top diver on all three boards last season.
"Katie has come up real well," diving coach Wayne Chester said. "She is more focused mentally and she is doing better on the degree of difficulty on her dives.
The TCU women feature two more returning divers in junior Lauren Mikulecky and sophomore Courtney Cheek.
"Lauren is coming back real strong," Chester noted. "Courtney is doing real well after joining the program last year as a walk-on."
Another Horned Frog to watch on the boards will be freshman Kristen Connolly. The San Antonio native is a two-time All-American on 1-meter and finished in the top-eight at the Texas State Championships last season.
"Kristen is doing real well," Chester said. "We continue to get to know each other as far as how she dives and how I coach."
The Horned Frogs have already begun the season with a victory over UT-Permian Basin back on Oct. 8. The Rice Invitational will feature Rice, Houston and Incarnate Word to go with the Horned Frogs. The women get their first Big 12 dual meet Nov. 2-3 against Kansas, and North Dakota will make it a double-dual meet. The Texas Invitational doubles as USA Short Course Nationals, meaning an already loaded field of the nation's best will be that much tougher. TCU will conclude 2012 at the San Antonio Classic.
After the winter break, the Horned Frogs have a tough three-week stretch with dual meets against West Virginia, SMU, Texas and North Texas. The TCU women are the only Big 12 team that will have dual meets against three conference opponents.
"We definitely we would like to have a winning record in the dual meet season," Sybesma said. "It will be very tough as we have some good teams on our schedule in Kansas, West Virginia and Texas in the Big 12 as well as SMU. We have a very tough schedule with several potential top-25 teams on the slate."
The Big 12 Championships take place Feb. 27-March 2 in Austin. NCAA Zone Diving will be March 13-16 in Houston. The season will conclude at the NCAA Championships March 21-23 in Indianapolis, Ind.