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Senior captain Angela Gambardella leads a North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team that is stacked with talent and looking to bring home the first state title in program history this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Maddie Bergin and the Indians started their season on a positive note by claiming a 97-79 victory over Sacred Heart Academy at Albertus Magnus College on Sept. 13. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Riley Jooss returns for her junior year at North Haven after enjoying a plethora of success both individually and in relays as a sophomore. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The North Haven girls’ swimming and diving team has been one of the top squads in both the SCC and the state for the last several years. In each of the past two seasons, the Indians displayed their prowess in the pool by finishing in second place at the Class M State Championship. With a team that features plenty of veteran swimmers, along with an influx of talented freshmen, North Haven is aiming to claim its first state title in program history in 2019.
“When we had our preseason meeting, the girls brought it up and said, ‘Do you think we can do it?’ And I said, ‘Of course we can, but you have to make a commitment to yourselves and each other.’” Phelan said. “It’s still early in the season, but everyone is all-in on achieving that goal. If there’s one thing that stands out about this team, it’s their desire to be the best.”
Coach Phelan said that North Haven is strong in every event and features an excellent blend of talent and depth. The Indians’ abilities were on full display when they opened their season by recording a 97-79 road victory against Sacred Heart Academy at Albertus Magnus College on Sept. 13.
One of the most talented swimmers in the state is senior Angela Gambardella, who’s leading the Indians with fellow senior captain Christina Stoeffler this fall. Last year, Gambardella took first place in the 100 breaststroke and the 200 individual medley at both the SCC Championship and the Class M State Championship for the second-straight season. She went on to finish second in the breaststroke and third in the 200 IM at the State Open.
Coach Phelan feels that Gambardella is primed to have her best year yet as senior.
“Angela had an amazing offseason where she won the 200 breaststroke at an elite meet [the 2019 Futures Championships] in Ohio. She’s never plateaued and has only gotten better every year,” said Phelan, who enters the seventh season of her second stint as head coach. “Angela deserves everything that comes her way. She’s a hard worker who comes ready to train hard and motivates her teammates every day. She’s always positive.”
The same can be said of Stoeffler, who became a diver in her sophomore year and competed at the SCC Championship last fall. Phelan said that Stoeffler has designs on diving at states this season and will strive toward that goal with a smile. In North Haven’s season-opening victory, Stoeffler recorded a lifetime-best score of 164.30 points.
“Christina was selected by her peers to become a captain because she’s so positive and kind. She is a champion for anyone who needs to be lifted up,” Phelan said. “Christina does whatever it takes to keep everyone moving in the right direction and create a positive culture on the team.”
Senior Ava Santacroce is back on the diving board on the heels of an excellent junior campaign. After breaking the school record during the regular season, Santacroce finished second at SCCs, fourth in Class M, and 12th at the State Open. Against Sacred Heart Academy, Santacroce came close to breaking her own school record by totaling a score of 232.60.
“This is going to be Ava’s year,” said Phelan, who is assisted by diving coach Bob Lewis. “She trained really hard during the offseason and is coming into her senior year with a lot of confidence.”
The other athletes in North Haven’s senior class are Mia Coppola, who swims the 50 and 100 freestyles; Abby Kirtland, whose signature event is the 100 backstroke; Mackenzie Montesi, who does the backstroke and the distance freestyle events; and Gillian Regan, who also swims the 200 and 500 freestyles.
The Indians’ junior class is led by Maddie Bergin, who’s seen a ton of postseason success during the first half of her high school career. As a sophomore, Bergin came in first place in the 100 freestyle at the SCC Championship for the second year in a row, took first place at the Class M State Championship, and then finished sixth at the State Open. She also won the 50 freestyle at SCC and states, followed by a sixth-place performance in the Open. On top of all that Bergin, was recently named to the USA Swimming Scholastic All-America Team.
“Maddie just gets better and better and is another swimmer who has never plateaued,” Coach Phelan said. “She works really hard and is not only an excellent swimmer, but also in the classroom.”
Fellow junior Riley Jooss is looking to have another big season this year. Last fall, Jooss joined forces with Bergin, Gambardella, and then-freshman Brooke Nebor to place first in the 200 freestyle relay at the SCC and Class M meets, after which they finished ninth at the State Open. That same quartet came in first for the 200 medley relay at SCCs and states and then took sixth place while setting a school record at the Open. Individually, Jooss swims freestyle events, along with the 100 butterfly and 200 IM.
North Haven’s other juniors are Molly Coyle, who swims the 100 breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke, and the 200 IM; Ava Guidone, who does sprint freestyle events; Alyssa Laborde, who competes in freestyles and the breaststroke; and Nicole Reynolds, a freestyler.
In the sophomore class, Nebor is aiming for more success following a fantastic freshman year that saw her swim on those triumphant relays during the postseason. Nebor is a proficient sprint freestyler who also competes in the butterfly and backstroke.
The rest of North Haven’s sophomore corps features Chandler Ceste-Martinez, a first-year diver who scored a 137.65 versus Sacred Heart Academy in her varsity debut; along with Giulia Faulkner, who swims distance freestyles, the butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and the 200 IM; Grace Finch, a sprinter who specializes in the 100 butterfly; Olivia Grimm, who swims freestyles and the breaststroke; Taya Laborde, who also does freestyles and the backstroke; Abrielle Osbrone, who competes in the butterfly, breaststroke, and 200 IM; and Sarthi Shah, a sprint freestyler.
Coach Phelan also feels confident about the talented group of freshmen who are joining her program this season. North Haven’s freshman class features freestylers Makenzie Alogna and Victoria Pachnik; Mikayla Rapuano, a sprint freestyler who also swims the backstroke and 200 IM; Alice Scalmani, who will compete in sprint freestyles, the breaststroke, and the 200 IM; and Tara Stoeffler, who will do freestyles and the butterfly.
In the last week’s meet, Scalmani swam a time of 1:13.82 in the 100 breaststroke and finished in 2:27.13 for the 200 IM. Rapuano timed in at 1:05.92 in the 100 butterfly and posted a time of 1:07.48 in the 100 backstroke. Tara Stoeffler swam the 100 butterfly in 1:14.88 and finished the 100 freestyle in 1:04.57. Alogna delivered a time of 29.25 in the 50 freestyle and recorded a mark of 1:07.79 for the 100 freestyle.
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