CLEVELAND – There will be a bit of a different feel around the Case Western Reserve University women's swimming & diving team this winter. With the graduation of two of the most prolific performers in program history, Head Coach Doug Milliken will rely on new leadership and depth as the Spartans look to climb in the University Athletic Association.
A season ago, the squad (6-4) finished seventh at the conference meet while breaking five school records throughout the course of the year. The Spartans also earned the CSCAA Scholar All-America Team Award for a fourth straight year. From that group, 12 student-athletes return, and several are expected to fill leadership roles left by the graduation of Maggie Dillione and Sara Tillie.
"It's tough any time you graduate swimmers the caliber of Maggie and Sara," said Milliken. "But, it's also exciting. This is an opportunity for others to step into those roles and take our program to the next level."
Seniors Sophia Colevas (Washington, D.C./St. John's College) and Sarah Mastrandrea (East Amherst, N.Y./Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart) are two that will provide leadership in the pool and in the locker room as each has been named a captain.
"We have a spectrum of ability on the women's team," said Milliken. "Sophia and Sarah are both very solid women. They each do a nice job of pushing everyone and challenging them in the right way."
Colevas swam primarily backstroke events in 2013-14, posting the top team times in the 50, 100 and 200-yard races. Meanwhile, Mastrandrea will return in her sprinter role aiming to build on personal bests established last winter in the 50 and 100 freestyle.
Joining Mastrandrea in sprint events will be junior Rebecca Pakradooni (Augusta, Ga./Lakeside) and sophomore Rachel Loek (Woodridge, Ill./Downers Grove South). Each provides versatility and significant scoring capability.
"Rebecca is one of our top returners," said the head coach. "She's good from the sprints up to the mid-distance, and she is a very strong butterfly swimmer. She may even swim some backstroke events this year as well. Individually, Rebecca has a shot at making some cuts."
"Rachel is someone we're going to rely on quite a bit with sprint freestyle," said Milliken. "She may also see race time in the butterfly and backstroke."
Breaststroke events will be led primarily by senior Brianna Cain (Perry, Ohio/Perry). Cain has been the program's top breaststroke swimmer since arriving on campus. She holds the school record in the 100 breaststroke (1:06.69) as she broke her own mark during UAA Championship action last February.
In long events, Milliken will again turn to senior Abby Glenn (Novi, Mich./Novi). The squad's top returning distance swimmer, Glenn finished in eighth place in the 500 free and fifth place in the 1,650 free at the UAA Championship.
After a year away from the pool, junior diver Maria Lesieutre (San Jose, Calif./St. Francis) will also be in the mix as a key scorer.
"It's going to be nice to have Maria back," noted Milliken. "Her upper-class leadership is something we will rely on a lot, especially since we have a first-year diver."
Other returnees include senior backstroker Allison Vogler (Bloomfield Hills, Mich./Mercy), junior distance swimmer Jackie Dowling (Mason, Ohio/William Mason), junior butterfly specialist Elizabeth Landis (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pittsburgh Allderdice) and sophomore breaststroke swimmer Taylor Forsythe (Lyndhurst, Ohio/Hathaway Brown)
Along with the group of returners, Milliken welcomes 13 new faces to the program who will complement the upperclassmen and provide the team with a new luxury.
"The thing that excites me about the freshman class is its sheer size and depth," said Milliken. "It's probably the deepest freshman class on the women's side we've brought in during my time here. There's quite a bit of talent as well."
In addition to facing some of the top programs in the country during the UAA Championship, the Spartans also square off with in-state competition in home meets against John Carroll University, The College of Wooster and Ohio Northern University as well as away meets at Oberlin College and Baldwin Wallace University.
"With the women, there are several good matchups," described Milliken. "Any meet that we win or any success that we have will be a total team effort. Everyone will have to contribute for us to be successful. With our depth, we're looking to climb the charts this year. At the conference meet it's all about depth. I think we're going to do well, but because we're so young, it may take a little time to get there."
The Spartans open the season on Saturday, October 25 with a home dual meet versus UAA rival Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) at 1:00 p.m. at Veale Natatorium. Other highlights on the schedule include the Wooster Invitational on December 4-6, Seniors' Day against Ohio Northern on January 24 and the UAA Championship from February 11-14 in Atlanta.