Oct. 12, 2000
Champaign, Ill. - The University of Illinois swimming and diving squad will face-off in its first competition of the season Friday night at IMPE Pool. The Illini will compete in the annual Orange and Blue Meet at 7 p.m. Although the meet will consist of two squads of Illinois athletes, first year head coach Sue Novitsky is ready to see how her team will perform in a competitive situation.
"I hope to see good competitive racing," Novitsky said. "I want to see how they compete, even if it is against their teammates, so that the assistant coaches and I can see what we still need to work on."
Novitsky believes that her team has adjusted well to the coaching transitions. Novitsky was an assistant coach in the program until taking over the full time duties in July.
"The transition has been very smooth," Novitsky said. "I think it helped that I had coached many of the athletes before. Some changes have been made, and the athletes know this is a new season with new expectations."
Novitsky not only had to fill the assistant coaching position, but she also had to replace diving coach Camie Kornely who finished grad school. Novitsky has filled those vacancies with assistant coach Steve Farnau and diving coach Josh Seykora.
"Steve and Josh compliment the changes that have been made," Novitsky said. "They have both brought knowledge and enthusiasm to the program."
One focus of the new coaching staff has been team goals. One goal is to have a winning dual meet record. Accomplishing the task of improving throughout the year will make it easier to meet the other major team goal, which is to become one of the top teams in the Big Ten Conference.
"The team as a whole is cohesive and understands what is necessary in order to meet our goals," Novitsky said. "I think several people will step it up this year because they understand their roles much better." Among those expected to have strong seasons are captains Anna Christiansen and Molly Busch. Novitsky will also look to senior Darcy Adler and returning All-American Jessica Aveyard to step up into the leadership roles. She also has high expectations for her senior class.
"They lead by example," Novitsky said. "They work hard in the pool and in the classroom. They like to compete, but they don't like to lose. The seniors are strong, and I expect them to go out with a bang."
Novitsky predicts that the backstroke will be one of the Illini's strongest events during the 2000-2001 season. Leading the depth in the event is 2000 University of Illinois Female Athlete of the Year Jessica Aveyard. She shattered the school record in the 200 back en route to a sixth place finish in the NCAA championships and a strong showing at the 2000 Olympic Trials.
In both the sprint and distance freestyle events, the Illini return a solid core of experienced performers including Aveyard and Anna Christiansen in the distance events and seniors Molly Busch and Colleen Farrell in the sprint races.
Christiansen and Darcy Adler are the only returning Illini breaststrokers. The Illinois squad has added depth in this event, and Novitsky expects the veterans to step up into the leadership role and help the breaststroking corps to show great improvement throughout the year.
Last year, Christiansen had her strongest season in the individual medley, and Novitsky feels that the senior is ready to have a strong season in the event.
Sophomore Astrid Matthias looks to be one of the top competitors in the butterfly. Novitsky also expects Jessica Eaton to improve on her strong first year performances.
All of the divers are returning for the 2000-2001 campaign. Led by senior Jessica Ohr, they are consistently improving. Novitsky feels that the competition that they face throughout the season will help them improve and gain momentum heading into the Big Ten Championships.
"I'm excited about this year," Novitsky said. "I enjoy the opportunity to mold them into a team and help them achieve their goals."
After the Orange and Blue Meet, the Illini hit the road for an Oct. 19 meet at Southern Illinois. The only other home meet for the Illinois squad is Jan. 19 against Northwestern.