When Bailey Weathers took over Notre Dame’s women’s swimming and diving program a year ago, his goal was to elevate Notre Dame to among the elite teams in the country. Just as he has done at his two previous collegiate head coaching positions at Southern Illinois from 1985-87 and South Carolina from 1987-90, Weathers has set lofty, yet achievable, goals early in his tenure.
“We would really like to begin to make an impact on the national level and be recognized as the best team in the BIG EAST Conference,” says Weathers.
In his first year in 1995-96, Weathers took over a team with a solid foundation in place from Tim Welsh and coached the team to a respectable third-place finish at the first BIG EAST championship for Notre Dame. Weathers continued the rapid progress as he landed one of the nation’s best group of freshmen.
“We probably had one of the best six freshman classes in the country,” says Weathers. “It is a freshman class we think is a lot more talented than many people know and may be underrated even at six.”
Weathers sees the freshman class complementing the group of upperclassmen.
“We’ve got a much improved team over last year,” he says. “The swimmers that we’ve had in our program last year have matured quite a bit. We are really looking for them to perform well with the freshmen.”
Five seniors, Amy Bostick, Erin Brooks, Karen Daylor, Karen Foley and Alyssa Peterson, give Weathers a solid corps of swimmers returning for the 1996-97 season.
“We are fortunate to have five seniors coming back, all of whom are strong leaders,” says Weathers. “Our two captains, Erin Brooks and Amy Bostick, have been leaders since they came to Notre Dame and will do a great job as captains of the team.”
Notre Dame’s top returning swimmer, Brooks (Millington, N.J.) begins her final campaign after earning All-America honors in 1996 at the NCAA championships in her specialties, the 100 and 200 backstroke. Brooks captured both events at the BIG EAST championships and participated in the Olympic Trials in the backstroke as well. Brooks won the 100 and 200 backstroke on 15 different occasions in 1996.
“Erin Brooks, with her finishes in the NCAAs and the Olympic Trials, is probably the strongest returning swimmer that we have in the program,” says Weathers.
Bostick (Germantown, Tenn.) and Daylor (West Chester, Pa.) boosted Notre Dame’s freestyle ranks a year ago with their performances in the sprint events and should repeat their performances this year.
Foley (El Paso, Texas) returns as perhaps Notre Dame’s most versatile swimmer. She competed in seven different events during the season in butterfly, backstroke and individual medley and in both sprint and distance races.
“Karen really was a big help in the butterfly and the individual medley,” says Weathers. “She is really going to be the person we put in where we need depth and strength.”
Peterson (Apopka, Fla.), whose sister Jesslyn swam on the team before graduating last year, is another versatile swimmer for the Irish and will give the team depth.
Juniors Courtney South (Sewickley, Pa) and Linda Gallo (Colt Neck, N.J.) are the top swimmers for Notre Dame in the freestyle. South capped off her season with three impressive finishes at the BIG EAST championships by placing fifth in both the 100 and 200 and sixth in the 50 freestyle with team and season-best performances in those events. Gallo won 10 events last year, eight of which were freestyle events. She was also one of Notre Dame’s top finisher at the BIG EAST championships by placing third in the 1650 free.
“Courtney and Linda are two of our stronger freestylists coming back,” says Weathers. “Both of them can score a lot of points at the BIG EAST championships and should play a big role for us at the NCAAs in the relays and freestyle events.”
A pair of sophomores comprise the Irish contingent in the breaststroke. Brittany Kline (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and Becca Roedersheimer (Cincinnati, Ohio) gave Notre Dame some of its best finishes in breaststroke last season. Kline claimed second for Notre Dame at the BIG EAST championships in the 100 breaststroke and was fifth in the 200 breaststroke.
“We are really counting on our two sophomores to continue to give the solid results that they gave us last year in breaststroke,” says Weathers.
Junior Lauren Relay (River Vale, N.J.), Notre Dame’s top returning butterfly specialist, turned in two top-five finishes at the BIG EAST championships a year ago. She placed second in the 200 butterfly and fourth in the 100 butterfly. Relay also won eight fly events during the dual meet season.
“Lauren Relay played a big role for us last year at the BIG EAST championships,” says Weathers. “We expect her to be a real strong point for us again in the fly.”
Sophomore Anna Iacobucci (Lincoln, R.I.) won six dual meet events last year in four different events. She also came away with three top-10 finishes at the BIG EAST championships.
“Anne Iacobucci played a big role in the individual medley and filled in well in stroke events and middle distance events,” says Weathers.
Weathers unveils his first class of freshmen to enter Notre Dame. It is a class that he thinks will give the Irish their best chances in impacting nationally.
“Our freshman class, along with our returning swimmers, is the base that we will build our program on in the next five years,” says Weathers.
Highlighting this group is breaststroker Shannon Suddarth (Topeka, Kan.). The six-time Kansas state champion participated in the 1996 Olympic Trials and is a two-time YMCA national champion.
“Shannon should really be in the top eight swimmers at the NCAA championships in the 100 and 200 breaststroke,” says Weathers. “She will also help us in the individual medley and butterfly.”
Allison Hollis (Aurora, Colo.) should team with Brooks to form a powerful backstroke team. Hollis placed 17th at the Olympic Trials in the 200 backstroke and was 12th at the U.S. national championships in the 200 backstroke.
Molly Beeler (Granger, Ind.) is another backstroker who should give Notre Dame solid results and has qualified for the senior nationals in the 100 and 200 backstroke.
“Allison and Molly should challenge Erin Brooks quite a bit and both should help us at the NCAA championships in the backstroke,” says Weathers.
Notre Dame will get the most help from the freshmen in butterfly with the addition of Elizabeth Barger (Littleton, Colo.) and Alison Newell (Parker, Colo.). Both were outstanding high school swimmers in Colorado, sharing swimmer of the year honors.
“Elizabeth Barger and Alison Newell are both excellent butterflyers and senior national level swimmers,” says Weather. “They will bring more speed to the butterfly which is where we struggled last year on our relays. Either one of the two will really stand up and help us to send our medley relay teams to the NCAAs.”
Leticia Herrera (Universal City, Texas) and Natalie Najarian (Troy, Mich.) also will give the Irish depth in butterfly.
After the loss of Liane Gallagher to graduation, second-year diving coach Caiming Xie expects his first group of divers to enter Notre Dame and make immediate contributions. A pair of freshmen, Gina Kettelhohn (Brown Deer, Wis.) and Rhiana Saunders (The Woodlands, Texas), bring a lot of talent to Notre Dame. Kettelhohn became the first female in Wisconsin history to win four diving championships and was second at the YMCA championships. Saunders was a five-time zone qualifier and received All-America scores in high school.
“These two divers should contribute a lot and should score big points for us at the BIG EAST championships and hopefully advance to the NCAA championships,” says Xie.
Sophomore Kelly Crowhurst (Lockport, Ill.) should give the Irish depth in diving.
The talent of the freshmen and the maturity and experience of the upperclassmen has Weathers confident about the 1996-97 season.
“We think that we are one of the top two teams in BIG EAST and we have a realistic goal of being in the top 20 in country,” says Weathers. “This will be a big step for our program.”