ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. – As Atlantic 10 Championships arrive, the St. Bonaventure women's swimming and diving team looks for continued improvement Feb. 14-17 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.
For head coach Brian Thomas, improvement will be a major point of emphasis for his second run at the Atlantic 10 Championships. During his first season as head coach, the Bonnies placed 10th with 187.5 points. After posting a 9-4 record in dual meets, the Bonnies are coming off their best regular season in recent memory.
"If they focus on the team component and the emotional component as a team and what they bring as a teammate, I think they'll like the result," Thomas said. " A swimmer like Devon, a swimmer like Maria, Michaela, Alyssa and Emily, they add so much in terms of their leadership and care for each other they add so much in terms of their leadership and care for each other, I think our younger swimmers can pick up on that, and that sort of experience will help."
While senior experience will pay dividends for the entire team, one of the younger Bonnies that will be looking to make a splash is freshman Lina Kutsko. The product of Belarus has had an outstanding season, breaking four school records and winning multiple Atlantic 10 Performance awards. During the Brown and White's last meet against Niagara on Jan. 27, Kutsko captured an individual victory in the 100-backstroke event, as well as wins in the 200-medley and free relay with the help of McFadden, Rocchi, Katrina Wardner and Casey Prentice.
"Lina performed at Winter Nationals, that's against some of the best swimmers in the sport," Thomas said. "When the time comes and they're stepping up on the blocks, it's up to them."
Two of the top performers for the Bonnies have been McFadden and Rocchi. Rocchi has shined as a member of both the 200 and 400-medley relay teams, notching wins in both events against Canisius and CCSU. While also winning the 200-breaststroke, Rocchi has finished top five in all events she's competed in.
McFadden shares a similar story with high quality outings, both individually and in relay events. This season, she's placed first in the 100 and 200-backstroke, 100 and 200 IM and has been a part of major relay wins, including the record breaking 200-medley relay at the Zippy Invitational.
"There are certain swimmers that have it with the money on the table and certain swimmers that don't," Thomas said. "It's no secret that Devon's really good when the money's on the table, and that's what separates great team's this time of year, is how many swimmers you have like that."
The Bonnies best finish in the championship was a fourth place tie in the 2010-11 season. Coach Thomas used one word to describe the goal for this year's tournament: improvement.
"I told the girls, we're not really necessarily setting specific goals on placing, point total or anything like that," Thomas said. "Let's just make St. Bonaventure a player again within our conference, it's been a long time since that's been the case and I think that'd be a really special thing to be a part of. Our preparation the last four to five weeks is light years ahead of where we were last year, and those are all great signs."
For the latest news on St. Bonaventure athletics, stay connected on social media. Follow the Bonnies on Twitter @Go_Bonnies and get women's swimming and diving updates @BonniesWSwim. Keep up with the Bonnies on Facebook /GoBonnies and on Instagram @GoBonnies.